Advanced Web-Based Training for Adoptive Parents of Special Needs Children

Period of Performance: 09/06/2007 - 03/07/2009


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Northwest Media, Inc.
Eugene, OR 97401
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Adoptive placement of special needs foster children remains a high priority for child welfare agencies across the country. These children often show significant emotional and behavioral problems that challenge their parents long after the legalization of the adoption. Indeed, increasingly higher rates of unsuccessful (i.e., disrupted or legally dissolved) adoptions are associated with special needs placements. Special needs problems are emotionally expensive to both the child and parents and ultimately financially expensive to the agency and the state. Despite the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997, there are approximately 119,000 "waiting" foster children, half of them ten years or older. These children are among the most difficult to place; their adoptive parents require specific and effective trainings. Research provides mounting evidence that post-adoptive services, notably ongoing adoptive parent training, are positively correlated with satisfying, stable, and intact adoptive placements. However, the parent training components of these services are not required and often not available throughout the US. The available courses are inconsistent in quality and focus. We propose developing a series of 14 interactive online courses/workshops designed to provide parents of special needs/ older-aged adopted children with high quality, readily available, intermediate and advanced training. The training with a practical approach would address a spectrum of serious behavior problems that adopted older and/or special needs children often exhibit. These problems may include sexualized behavior, self-harm, lying, eating disorders, sleep problems, running away, stealing, ADHD, or RAD. Courses will also be offered on positive and safe parenting techniques, working with birth families, and raising transracial/transcultural adopted children. In Phase I we will develop and evaluate a course/workshop on adopted children's' anger problems. The feasibility study will test the effectiveness of the course/workshop on increasing parents' knowledge of anger problems compared with a text-only online version of the program and a no-treatment control group. The training will be offered online by Northwest Media. Subjects participating in this project will gain important information about parenting special needs adoptive children that may help them to better understand and manage these children's disturbed behaviors. As a result, the quality of parent-child relationships in adoptive families could improve, which could help stabilize adoptive placements and improve children's short- and long-term mental health outcomes.