Vol. 9, No. 1• November 2004

From Foster Care to Adoption
New Information from the Family Support Network of NC and the NC Division of Social Services

by Kathryn D. Kramer and Irene N. Zipper

During the past several months, the Family Support Network of North Carolina (FSN-NC) has been conducting a study to determine issues that slow down the process of adopting children from the foster care system, particularly children who have developmental disabilities and other special health care needs. The study is titled From Foster Care to Adoption: Identifying System-Level Challenges for Children with Developmental Disabilities. This project is funded by a grant from the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the topic of study was one of the Council’s designated areas of research for 2004.

Adoptive families and families who are adopting a child with developmental disabilities and other special health care needs were invited to participate in the study. Three focus groups were held during the NC Foster Parents Association Conference on April 24–25, 2004. Another focus group was conducted with system-level participants (including social workers, a lawyer, a Guardian ad Litem director, a private adoption agency representative, a state level DSS administrator, and a county DSS director). All groups discussed the strengths and limitations of the adoption process in North Carolina.

Initial findings indicate that issues that affect the pace of the adoption process include:

1) The appeal process in the state;

2) The termination of parental rights (TPR) process;

3) Variations from county to county in policy and practice;

4) The multiple numbers of social workers and lawyers involved in placement; and

5) Values that affect the choice of permanent placements, such as beliefs about traditional vs. non-traditional family placements.

Each focus group emphasized the importance of strong communication and training for parents and professionals.

At press time a working conference including family members and other stakeholders is scheduled to be held in October. At that time, information from the focus groups will be shared, and recommendations will be developed to address the challenges and build on the strengths identified through the focus groups. It is hoped that these activities will help to promote practices to ensure that children in the foster care system who need permanent placements are adopted in a timely manner.

For further information, please call the Family Support Network at 800/852-0042, visit <www.fsnnc.org>.

Kathryn D. Kramer is Coordinator of Research and Evaluation for the Family Support Network-NC. Irene N. Zipper is the Director of the Familiy Support Network-NC.

Copyright 2004 Jordan Institute for Families