Risk and Protection Factors in Preadoption Breakdown in Portugal
Background and purpose: Child’s older age at placement is generally agreed to be the greatest risk factor for adoption breakdown. More research is needed about other correlates of disruption beyond children’s age. This study aimed at comparing intact and disrupted placements and identifying adoption disruption risk and protection factors. The results will be useful when considering how to prevent adoption disruption.
Method: This study used a matched design involving a casefile analysis of 71 disrupted and 71 intact Portuguese pre-adoptive placements, matched by age at placement and with similar distribution according to gender. Child’s average age at placement was of almost 8 years, allowing to globally consider the study’s sample as late-placement cases.
Results: Disrupted and intact cases were similar in some aspects but presented differences in relation to the to-be-adopted child (variables related to the birth family, child’s behaviour and readiness to adoption), the adopters (variables related to parenting, acknowledgement of adoption specificities and social network) professional practices (variables related to completeness of information about the child and the adopters, adopters’ preparation for adoption, staff continuity). Using binary logistic regression analysis, a predictive model combining variables of the to-be-adopted child, the adopters and the caseworkers’ practices was performed. This model explained 54% of the variance and predicted correctly the group membership for 80.8% cases.
Conclusions: Age at placement alone is not enough to understand the circumstances leading to breakdown. Other risk factors related to the child, the adopters and the professional practices help to gain a more complete understanding of adoption disruption. Accurate and complete assessment of adopters’ suitability, pre-placement preparation of both the child and the adopters, as well as an effective post-placement follow-up, are needed in order to prevent placement disruption.