Profiles in Permanency: Enhanced Case Management for At-Risk Adoptions

The National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) is a five-year cooperative agreement, funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, designed to promote permanence when reunification is no longer a goal and improve adoption and guardianship preservation and support. For more information about this project, please click here.

Writer April Dinwoodie is profiling each of the eight projects that are overseen by the center for The Chronicle of Social Change. Today, she focuses on Wisconsin’s Adoption and Guardianship Enhanced Support program (AGES), a voluntary program designed to support families who face escalating stress post-adoption or guardianship finalization.

In Wisconsin, the QIC-AG worked in conjunction with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). With the exception of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a state-supervised county administered child welfare system, with child welfare services delivered through a network that includes counties, private agencies and tribal nations. Post-permanency services are delivered by Post Adoption Resource Centers throughout the state.

In an effort to better understand the needs of the population being served by the QIC-AG, the Wisconsin site team met with families who have adopted and obtained guardianship in Wisconsin, as well as professional staff who provide services to these families. Based on the information from these meetings, the team determined that existing promising practices and evidence-based modules did not sufficiently address the needs in their state.

The Wisconsin team designed a new intervention, AGES, to address the concerns of families who expressed feeling ill-equipped, unsupported and unprepared to meet the emerging needs of their children after permanence occurred.

AGES offers individualized assessment of emerging needs and strengths, identification of child- and family-specific goals, help connecting to resources and services, and targeted advocacy. Through this enhanced case management, the AGES team of professionals work with families to build supportive relationships by offering personalized skill-building and educational materials.

The Wisconsin team developed all of the core components, mapped the operational strategy and developed all supporting documentation, including a 120-page program manual.

The project aims to serve all families who have adopted or assumed guardianship of children in the targeted region of the state and are experiencing issues or demonstrating behaviors that put them at high risk for post-permanency discontinuity. This target population includes children adopted through the public child welfare system as well as children adopted through tribal customary adoptions, private domestic adoptions or intercountry adoptions.

AGES is delivered in several phases and designed to last six months, but can go much longer if needed. Those phases are:

  • Support Initiation: The initial support connection is critical. Responsiveness and sensitivity by the AGES worker to families who are reaching out for help increases the likelihood of family engagement and involvement.
  • Assessment. An AGES worker seeks information to understand the presenting problems, the strengths the family possesses, ongoing needs of the child and family, and needs for linkage to services.
  • Support Planning. Developed with the family, the Support Plan identifies goals and prioritizes the family’s goals by those that are most critical. Goals for the child, parent and family as a whole are considered.
  • Support Delivery. This phase consists of working on the activities described in the Support Plan. Support delivery uses a family-centered approach that enhances knowledge and skills, parental resilience, social connections and relationships.
  • Case Closure. Family participation in AGES is voluntary, and a family can choose to end their participation at any time. But formal case closure includes plans for ongoing intervention as needed to help adoptive and guardianship families learn new skills needed as their children develop.

AGES is in the development and test phase, focused on determining the accuracy of core components. The overall goals of AGES are to understand if families who participate in the program are better able to manage family stress, to develop an increased capacity for post-permanence stability, and to achieve improved well-being. In accordance with AGES manual specifications, quality assurance tools have been developed to evaluate the delivery of services through a case record review tool and field-based observation of staff.

As of December 2018, 33 families have participated in AGES. A detailed evaluation report is planned for September 2019.

To learn more about the QIC-AG’s work with AGES in Wisconsin, check out the full profile online. In future columns for The Chronicle, I will continue to describe the different interventions being tested at the other seven partner sites in more detail.

April Dinwoodie is a transracially adopted person and a nationally recognized thought leader in foster care and adoption. Dinwoodie’s podcast “Born in June, Raised in April: What Adoption Can Teach the World!” helps to facilitate an open dialogue about adoption, foster care and family today. She is the founder of Adoptment, a mentoring program that matches foster youth with adopted adults, and is retained by clients, including the QIC-AG, to help raise awareness of their work to support children and families.   

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WEBINAR ALERT!

Learn more about the federal rule change to provide legal representation to children and parents involved in the child welfare system in our exclusive webinarA New Era of Funding Family Justice, with Leslie Heimov and Vivek Sankaran on Feb. 21st. Hosted by John Kelly, Editor-in-Chief for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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