Preparing Families to Understand and Support the Needs of Children Adopted from Foster Care
This presentation includes an evaluation of the effectiveness of the TIES Pre-placement Education and Preparation curriculum (TIES PREP) for prospective foster/adoptive parents in improving knowledge of potential strengths and challenges of raising children adopted from foster care, attitudes toward children with prenatal substance exposure and their substance-using birth parent(s), and increasing willingness to adopt these children. Participants included 1,836 prospective parents seeking adoption through foster care who received 9 hours of TIES PREP training. TIES PREP sessions include information to help families understand addiction, build empathy for birth parents, practice how to answer children’s difficult questions about being in care in honest and developmentally appropriate ways, common medical/pediatric issues for children involved in foster care, demystifying prenatal substance exposure, understand individual temperament and attachment-based strategies in caring for children with trauma histories and other risk factors, family strategies for positive, child welfare competent parenting and strategies to help prevent substance abuse in adolescents. Additionally, families hear from an experienced parent who has adopted through foster care about their experiences. Prospective parents completed questionnaires assessing their knowledge about important issues involved in adopting a child from foster care, attitudes, and willingness to adopt children with potential risk factors common to the histories of youth involved in child welfare such as prenatal substance exposure, behavioral issues, family histories of mental illness and substance abuse, ADHD, etc. Changes from pre- to post-TIES PREP training were examined. Results indicated significant increases in self-reported knowledge; significantly more positive attitudes toward substance abusing parents and children with prenatal substance exposure; and significantly increased willingness to adopt children with a variety of potential difficulties, including children with prenatal substance exposure, serious behavior problems, ADHD, and children with a biological history of mental illness. Findings suggest that prospective adoptive parents who attended the TIES PREP sessions felt better prepared by the end of training with regard to issues related to adoption of high-risk foster children with potential special needs, particularly those with prenatal substance exposure.