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February 2021   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month  

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Adoption Competence

Adoption is not an event but a lifelong process, and most child welfare professionals will encounter adoption issues at some point in their work. Because of separation, loss, and traumatic or difficult experiences in early childhood, many children who are adopted, in guardianship, or in foster care are at higher risk for behavioral, emotional, and mental health challenges.

Training in adoption competence helps child welfare workers and other professionals, such as mental health practitioners, better understand the unique and complex needs of families formed through adoption. Adoption competence builds skills and knowledge related to working with and supporting adopted children and youth and their families.

Pursuing adoption competence will provide professionals the insight and experience necessary to fulfill the needs of the adoption community. Understanding how to emphasize family strengths, ensure practices are family focused, and include all members of the adoption constellation in decision-making can help serve families along their adoptive journey.

Adoption competence is shaped by some core values, as identified by Dr. Deborah Siegel in this article, including the following:

  • The child’s needs and interests are primary.
  • Every child deserves and needs a safe, nurturing, permanent family.
  • Whenever possible, the child should be included in adoption decision-making.
  • In most cases, the child has a right to some sort of contact with his or her biological family.
  • Birth parents, including those who have had their parental rights involuntarily terminated because they abused or neglected the child, should be treated with respect.
  • It is best to take a strengths-based perspective when working with adoptive families.
  • Adoption should build family connections, not sever them.

The resources below discuss the importance of adoption competence for child welfare professionals working with families formed through adoption. They review the importance of adoption competence, describe how adoption-competent practice supports permanency, and explore how training in adoption competence helps support families and children, especially those with behavioral and/or mental health issues. One such training resource is the Children’s Bureau funded National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative.

3 Resources on Adoption Competence for Child Welfare Professionals

Three Big Reasons Adoption Competency Matters


By the National Adoption Competency Mental
Health Training Initiative, Center for Adoption
Support and Education


Training for Adoption Competency

By Children's Bureau
Vol. 19, No. 9

Adoption Competency Training

By North American
Council of Adoptable



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