• November 2018
  • Vol. 19, No. 9

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The Impact of Age in Postpermanency Discontinuity

Research shows that 1 to 10 percent of adopted children between age 18 and 24 months and close to 15 percent of children between age 10 years and the age of majority end up returning to state custody (i.e., experience postpermanency discontinuity). A recent article in the Journal of Adolescent and Family Health aimed to identify reasons why the rate of postpermanency discontinuity rises as children reach adolescence.

According to the study, there are several factors that may be related to postpermanecy discontinuity, including the information (or lack thereof) given to adoptive parents about the child prior to adoption, supports available to the family, the adoptive parent's expectations of his or her relationship with the child, the adoptive parent's satisfaction with the relationship, the adoptive parent's connection to religion or faith, and whether there are other children in the home. To gather data, researchers used a sample of 20 adoptive families receiving postadoption services who adopted a total of 45 children through the public child welfare system. A total of 30 children in the study were age 12 and younger, and 15 children were age 13 and older. Parents were of varied ages.

Focus groups were conducted with parents and child welfare staff. Participants answered questions on general demographic information (e.g., name, age, race), and:

  • How long they had been adoptive parents
  • What made them want to adopt
  • What they thought was the most rewarding/challenging part of adopting
  • Whether they ever thought about ending the adoption and why
  • Whether they were aware of the postadoption services available to them
  • Where they would turn in 5 to 10 years' time if they should encounter challenges with their adopted children

In general, the families were divided into those whose adoptions were going well and those who were facing significant challenges.

Data analysis showed that the primary explanation for the increase in discontinuity as the child gets older is due to whether the family was internally protected or externally influenced. Internally protected families were able to take control of their situations and make decisions in the best interests of the family as well as protect their families from outside influences. Externally influenced families reported an inability to limit the influence of outside forces that affected their children's adoption experiences, such as involvement with school and law enforcement as a result of children's behavioral issues, which seemed to increase as the child got older. 

The article also includes implications for practice, including the need to prioritize ongoing support for adoptive parents that will help them manage external issues that could affect continuity.

"The Evolution of Challenges for Adoptive Families: The Impact of Age as a Framework for Differentiation," by Nancy Rolock, Joan M. Blakey, Megan Wahl, and Amy Devine (Journal of Adolescent and Family Health, 9), is available at https://scholar.utc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1059&context=jafh (PDF - 411 KB).


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