Special Needs Adoptive Families: A Study of Social Supports and Family Functioning

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Wendi K. Schweiger (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
L. DiAnne Borders

Abstract: As a result of recent federal initiatives, more children have become available for adoption, and many of these children enter their new families with a variety of "special needs." Special needs adoptees have been defined as "children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse and/or severe neglect; children with physical or emotional disabilities; children who are older than one year; and children who are members of a sibling group who are placed together with the same adoptive family" (Mullin & Johnson, 1999, p. 590). Often, special needs adoptive children evidence psychological and emotional difficulties that can be very challenging to the adoptive family. These children and their families may require a number of services and different types of support to assist with the transition of integrating the adopted child into the family and to assist family members as they move through new developmental stages. In addition, parents' needs for support may vary based on the special needs of the adopted child and/or may vary based on their prior experiences (or lack of) as foster parents or adoptive parents. This study used Urie Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory (1977, 1988, 1989) as a framework to conceptualize the study of social supports in special needs adoptive families. An ecological perspective recognizes the role of the environment in familial development and recognizes that the family is a complex system that interacts with other complex systems. Differences in support availability, use, need, and helpfulness were examined based on 125 parents' reports. One-way ANOVAs revealed significant differences in support needs based on parent experience and special need categories of children. Parents with foster and/or adoptive experience reported higher availability of supports overall than parents without experience. Parents without foster or adoptive experience reported lower use and higher need of supports overall than parents with experience. Parents of children with physical/developmental disabilities reported higher use of services overall than parents of children with behavioral/emotional disabilities/difficulties or parents of children with both types of disabilities/difficulties. Significant correlations were found between support availability and the Family Environment Scale (FES) subscale of Conflict and support need and the FES subscale of Conflict, suggesting a relationship between family environment and supports.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
Adoption, Special needs
Special needs adoption $z United States.
Adoptive parents $x Services for $z United States.
Adopted children $x Family relationships.
Family assessment.
Family social work.
Sexually abused children $x Care.
Abused children $x Care.
Psychologically abused children $x Care.
Developmentally disabled children $x Care.
Children with disabilities $x Care.
Older child adoption.

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