Effects of a community outreach post-permanency program on behavior problems and placement stability of youth in adoptive/guardianship arrangements

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As an increasing number of foster children achieve permanency through adoption or legal guardianship, identifying effective interventions or services to assist them in transitioning into positive post-permanency adjustment is a pressing topic in child welfare research. However, current knowledge about the effectiveness of interventions for this population is inadequate, because of various design, analysis, and measurement limitations of previous evaluation studies. To address some of these limitations, this study used an intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis, a treatment-on-treated (TOT) analysis, and structural equation modeling (SEM) to examine the effectiveness of the Illinois Adoption Preservation, Assessment, and Linkage (APAL) program. The APAL program is a community outreach post-permanency service provided to families with older children who were adopted or taken into guardianship. The program provides a needs assessment and referral and informational services, which aim to address service needs and prevent youth’s out-of-home placement. Three hypotheses were tested related to (1) examining the impact of the APAL program assignment and receipt on youth behavior problems, caregivers’ commitment, and out-of-home placement; and (2) identifying the mediating effects of provider contact, perceived demands of youth care or needs, and unmet service needs that link assignment to the intervention to youth behavior problems and caregiver commitment. The study analyzed data from the Illinois Post-Permanency Round II (PP-II) Survey which used a quasi-experimental design with a six-month follow-up (N = 439). The families in the intervention group were expected to receive the APAL services, whereas families in the comparison group were expected to receive regular post-permanency services. To investigate the effect of APAL program assignment on the outcomes, an ITT analysis was used; to detect the effect of receiving the APAL program on the outcomes, a TOT analysis was used. In the ITT and TOT analyses, depending on the outcome, either a multivariate OLS regression or logistic regression was estimated. SEM was used to shed light on the processes through which the APAL program was effective. Results of the multivariate analyses suggest that the APAL program can reduce youth externalizing behaviors and increase caregivers’ commitment to the youth. Participants assigned to the APAL group had an average of 1.30 lower externalizing behavior scores (effect size = -.23) and an average of .98 higher caregivers’ commitment scores (effect size = .24) than participants in the comparison group. Those who actually received the APAL intervention had an average of 1.36 lower scores on externalizing behavior (effect size = -.28), and exhibited an average of .87 higher caregiver commitment scores (effect size = .28), compared to those who did not receive the program. Because of the low frequency of youth placed out of home, whether the APAL program prevented such placements could not be determined. Results of the SEM indicate that service provider contacts can assist in reducing caregivers’ perceived demands of youth care or needs, which in turn leads to fewer behavior problems and enhanced caregiver commitment. Although the current study was not based on an experimental design, the findings have implications for social work practice, program evaluation, child welfare policy, and agencies to improve the lives of children and families in the life-long adoption/guardianship process.




Social Work


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign