Many permanency professionals see the finalization of an adoption or guardianship as the finish line to a long race. Others of us know that permanency is not a one-day event but a lifelong experience. We wonder how it all turned out. Do they, in fact have better long-term health and well-being outcomes? Was what we did enough to allow the relationships to endure? Was the family able to access the post permanency support they needed?
Families NOW is supporting the launching of a 10-year longitudinal study to answer those questions. The moving force behind the study is Ampersand Families Michelle Chalmers. She raised the funds to work with the Wilder Foundation to prepare a literature review and research design. Two state cohorts will begin the project, Minnesota and California. If things go as planned other states will join in year two. Families NOW will provide oversight to the California cohort. Our role to date has been to open the doors to potential funders for this
This study breaks new ground in foster care research, pushing past treating the adoption itself as a positive outcome, to research how the youth fare over time compared to their counterparts who age out without families. No longitudinal research has focused on how older youth adopted from foster care fare over time as they transition into adulthood. Existing longitudinal research has focused on adolescent health (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health) and on youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood (The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth).
Mark Courtney’s Midwest Study was ground breaking, looking at the outcomes of youth who aged out of foster care. This study is equally ground breaking and will lead to better quality pre- and post-permanency services resulting in improved permanency outcomes and greater stability for adoptive families. Overlapping questions in the National Study of Adolescent Health and the Midwest Study indicated that young people who have aged out of foster care are faring poorly as a group relative to their peers across a variety of domains. The proposed Wilder Research is designed to make use of the Midwest Study for control group data for the older child adoption study.
We applaud Ampersand Families’ leadership in driving this research. It requires courage for organizations that promote and provide improved permanency services for older youth, to take a deep look at outcomes of those who are adopted.