Family well-being of adoptive families of children with intellectual disability
Compared with the large amount of adoption research, fewer studies allow us to know the challenges that special need adoptive families have to face. Particularly, there is very little research concerning the adoption of children with an intellectual disability (ID). Only five studies were found addressing this issue, all of them outdated and conducted in Great Britain or Australia.
This study aims to explore the life of adoptive families of children with ID from a psychosocial perspective, describing their characteristics, dynamics and family well-being. This study has allowed us to find the specific challenges that adoptive families of mentally disabled children face. Nevertheless, for this oral presentation, we will only be presenting the specific results regarding family well-being.
In-depth interviews were conducted about 35 parents with nationally or internationally adopted children with an ID. Of the interviewees 77,1% are mothers, the mean age was 51,46 years old, the youngest being 33 and the oldest 67 years old. Parents also filled a questionnaire which included demographic information, and some scales including the Family Adjustment to Adoption Scale (Berástegui, 2005), designed for adoptive families, and the Quality of Family Life Scale (Verdugo & Sainz, 2005), designed for families with disabled children.
The transcripts of the interviews were analyzed and a categorized by a quasi-quantitative strategy, resulting in six topic-areas. For this communication, we have focused our attention on one variable of the adoption process: Adoption procedure (ordinary or special), that also allows us to explore if the families had previous knowledge of the ID of their children or not. Both the variables extracted from the qualitative material and the data obtained from the questionnaire were examined using univariate descriptive and non-parametric techniques.
The research has shown high levels of family well-being: Most of the families (82,9%) feel happy or essentially happy. Also, a great majority (85,7%) of the interviewees evaluate that their adoption experience has been positive or very positive and more than 9 of 10 families (91,4%) would adopt again. However, significant differences were found depending if the families had chosen the special adoption or not, for example for the variable of family adaption (U=53,5; p=0,001). This differences are even more striking (U=27,5; p=0,001) for the quality of family life: special adoption families score a median value of 103, whereas ordinary adoption families have a median result of 80.
This findings throw light upon the importance of meeting the specific needs of these families and the central role the voluntary election plays in the well-being of families adopting children with ID. Nevertheless, as an accurate diagnosis is not always possible before the adoption, it is our duty to prepare the adopting families for the risk and challenges associated with the appearance of an ID.