VISTAS Counseling Families and Adults

VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for ACA by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. VISTAS Online contains the full text of over 900 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to 2017.

Adoption-Specific Family Challenges of Special-Needs Adoptive Placements

Darren A. Wozny and Sedahlia Jasper Crase


Special-needs adoption placements are vital to society in providing permanent homes for children in the state foster care system. Adoption-specific family challenges are important to explore to prevent placement dissatisfaction and disruption for prospective/ current adoption parents. Barth and Berry (1988) estimated 15% of adoptive placements disrupt, and Groze (1996) found 2% of legal placements dissolve. Furthermore, Rosenthal and Groze (1992) identified 22-25% of intact placements in their initial year struggled to adapt to special-needs adoption placement demands. This general mortality rate of adoption placements is often linked to adoption specific family challenges. Rosenthal (1993) noted that unrealistic parent expectations are a significant predictor of adoption placement disruption. Specifically, Miall (1996) explained that adoptive parents’ unrealistic expectations result from a myth of sameness whereby adoptive parents perceive that the unique demands of adoptive parenting are no different than typical parenting demands associated with non-special-needs birth children. To combat this myth of sameness, it is necessary to describe and differentiate the adoption specific parenting challenges from the typical parenting demands of birth children.

 The two groups that would benefit primarily from descriptions of adoption-specific family challenges are prospective/current 92 adoption parents and state adoptive caseworkers and therapists. Prospective and current adoptive parents would benefit from understanding the common adoption-specific family challenges in both preplacement and postplacement in two primary ways. Adoption Specific family challenges would help prospective and current adoptive parents set realistic expectations about their adoption placement, and knowing these challenges are common would assist in normalizing the adjustment for adoptive families under stress. As for state adoption caseworkers and therapists, knowledge of adoption specific family challenges would help these professionals focus their assessments and interventions with prospective adoptive parents in preplacement and current adoptive families in postplacement to facilitate any necessary adjustments to placement.

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