Families who adopt or become foster families face unique issues beyond those of biological families. Children adopted or placed from the public child welfare system bring additional complexity, potentially having histories of abuse, medical and behavioral problems, and adjustment and attachment disorders. These children's special needs frequently place additional stress on the family system, especially when they are manifested in challenging behaviors and childhood disorders. The need for supporting families is significant. As of July 6, 2015, adoptive families were receiving adoption assistance on behalf of 11,168 Oregon children. Guardians were receiving guardianship assistance on behalf of 1,485 children. In addition, there were 7,811 children in foster care on any given day in 2014. Oregon nonetheless continues to succeed in finding adoptive homes for these children.
Ironically, due to Oregon's success in increasing special needs adoptions, demand for adoption-specific mental health services far exceeds supply. In a recent survey of their needs, Oregon's adoptive families ranked as a top priority mental health support from clinicians with the skills and knowledge necessary to treat the unique issues facing adopted children. Nonetheless, too often Oregon's adoptive families report that they spend a great deal of time—frequently at their own expense–educating mental health professionals about the differences between parenting adopted and biological children. Adoption professionals corroborate the lack of adoption-competent mental health professionals.
Affordability of mental health care further limits the pool of mental health resources for adoptive families. 99% of children adopted through DHS receive adoption assistance benefits that include an Oregon Health Plan (OHP) medical card.
Foster families are in a similar difficult situation.
Without the necessary therapeutic supports to help adoptive and foster families get through the unique challenges of raising a child with special needs related to earlier abuse, neglect, or trauma, families face an increased risk of dissolution. Adopted children whose placements have "failed" return to the foster care system at the dual expense of their sense of self-worth and public funds.
For this reason, Portland State University's School of Social Work and the Child Welfare Partnership, the Oregon Department of Human Services, and the Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center work in partnership to bring you the Adoptive & Foster Family Therapy Certificate Program. The objectives of this program are to increase accessible adoption-competent mental health support for children and their families throughout Oregon; and to reduce the risk of adoptive or foster family dissolution.