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The Basics of Adoption Practice
Series: Bulletins for Professionals|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2006|
10. Prefinalization Services
A child typically lives with the new family for 6 to 12 months before the adoption is finalized by the court. This period sets the tone for the adjustment and attachment of both the child and the members of the adoptive family. Adjustment generally occurs in a predictable sequence of five phases: getting acquainted, the honeymoon, ambivalence, reciprocal interaction, and bond solidification (Pinderhughes and Rosenberg, 1990). Adoption workers should be aware of this sequence of phases in order to educate families about what to expect during the adjustment process.
The availability of supportive services before and after adoption finalization has been widely identified as a critical factor in the successful continuance of an adoption (Goodman, 1990). Objectives of prefinalization services are to:
- Continue to educate family members about expected stresses and changes
- Help parents facilitate new attachments
- Encourage a sense of entitlement by adoptive parents
- Recognize early indicators of potential disruption
- Address children's issues with loss, attachment, or cultural differences
- Address parents' issues with unmet expectations, cultural differences, or lack of preparation
- Provide immediate interventions to stabilize placements at risk of disruption
While most adoptive placements are successful, disruptions (termination of the placement before finalization) do occur. Researchers note that the rate of disruption among children adopted from foster care increases with the age of the child, since older children often have experienced multiple moves, placements, changes in schools, and other difficult events following their initial abuse or neglect (Barth and Berry, 1990). Research suggests that disruption is less likely when postadoption services are provided (Goerge, Howard, Yu, & Radomsky, 1997).More information about disruption can be found in the Information Gateway bulletin Adoption Disruption and Dissolution.
A Word About Attachment
After placement, adoption workers help children and families learn to develop and maintain healthy attachments within the family. Attachment can be viewed as a continuum with healthy attachment at one end and attachment disorder at the other. While a small percentage of children with attachment problems can be correctly diagnosed as having an attachment disorder, many more adopted children display signs of stressed attachment, a midpoint along the continuum. Children who have experienced maltreatment or traumatic separations are hesitant to trust others sufficiently to attach quickly or easily.
The worker plays a key role in assisting the family to help the child overcome attachment problems and in finding adoption-competent mental health practitioners who can facilitate the family bonding process. Consequently, the worker must possess a solid knowledge of attachment dynamics and be able to assist the family in developing strategies to move toward healthy attachments.
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