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Bell & Howell Information and Learning

300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 USA 800-521-0600

GRADUATE SOCIAL WORK STUDENTS' AITITUDES TOWARD SINGLE PARENTS AND SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION

A THESIS

Presented to the Department of Social Work California State University, Long Beach

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Social Work

By

John Thomas Crowley

BA, 1981, California State University, Dominguez Hills May 2000

UMI Number: 1400789

UM}'

UMI Microform 1400789

Copyright 2000 by Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company.

All rights reserved. This microform edition is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.

Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company 300 North Zeeb Road

P.O. Box 1346

Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346

WE, THE UNDERSIGNED MEMBERS OF TIlE COMMITTEE, HAVE APPROVED TInS THESIS

GRADUATE SOCIAL WORK STUDENTS' ATIlTUDES TOWARD SINGLE PARENTS AND SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION

By

John Thomas Crowley

COMMI'ITEE MEMBERS

Social Work

Social Work

Catherine Goodman, DSW

Social Work

ACCEPTED AND APPROVED ON BEHALF OF THE UNIVERSITY

~f4..~

Donald P. Landa, PhD

Dean, College of Health and Human Services

California State University, Long Beach May 2000

ABSTRACT

GRADUATE SOCIAL WORK STUDENTS' A 1TITUDES TOWARD SINGLE PARENTS AND SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION

By

John Thomas Crowley May 2000

With the population of the child welfare system exceeding one half million children in foster care, and a fifth of these children awaiting permanent families, this study looked at the attitudes of the next generation of social workers toward single adoptive parents. The child welfare and adoption knowledge and attitudes toward single-parent adoptions of 61 graduate social work students were surveyed. Correlations between child welfare and adoption knowledge, advanced standing in the graduate program, membership in the National Association of Social Workers, being raised in a single parent family, and attitude toward single-parent adoption were assessed. No significant relationship among these variables was identified.

Implications for further research for the field of social work and a possible explanation for the results are discussed.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I want to thank my mom and dad, Cyril and Kathleen Crowley, with whom everything is possible. I am very grateful to Paul De Sena, EdD, and Tom Batsis, PhD of the Graduate School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, for providing the ethical foundation and professional framework that allows me to work in the field of social services. Finally, let me thank Janaki Santhiveeran, PhD, my thesis advisor whose technical knowledge is unparalleled and whose patience is endless, and Eileen Mayer-Pasztor, DSW, whose knowledge and commitment to adoption is truly inspiring.

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CONTENTS

Page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS III

LIST OF TABLES vi

CHAPTER

1. INTRODUCTION 1

The Research Goal ., 2

Definition of Major Terms . 3

Disrupted Adoption 3

Dissolved Adoption 3

Legally Free 3

Pennanency or Permanency Planning 3

Permanent Family 4

Photo Listing Book 4

Placement 4

Single-Parent Adoption 4

Special Needs Children 4

2. LITERATURE REVIEW 5

Existing Research 5

The Studies 5

Research Variables as Derived From a Review of the Literature 9

Child Welfare and Adoption Knowledge 9

Attitudes Regarding Single-Parent Adoption of Special

Needs Children 12

3. METHODOLOGY 16

Design of Study 16

Sample 17

Procedure 1 7

Instrument 18

Data Analysis 19

4. DESCRIPTIVE ANAL YSES................................................................... 20

5. DISCUSSION 25

Findings 25

iv

CHAPTER Page

Limitations 26

Implications for Further Research 26

Implications for Social Work Practice 27

APPENDICES 28

B.

QUESTIONNAIRE .

CONSENT FORM .

29

A.

35

REFERENCES 37

v

LIST OF TABLES

Table

Page

1. Demographics of the Sample 21

2. Pearson's r Correlation for Adoption Knowledge and Attitude Toward

Single-Parent Adoption of Special Needs Children 23

3. Independent Samples t Test for Equality of Means-Adoption

Knowledge And Attitudes 24

VI

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

There are presently 520,000 children in out of home care in the United States; 110,000 of these are legally free for adoption (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau, 1999). Of those free for adoption, approximately halfare classified as having special needs. Special needs children commonly include older children, physically handicapped children, children of mixed or minority ethnicity, children who are members of a sibling group, and children with emotional or behavioral problems, although these definitions vary from state to state (Groze &. Rosenthal, 1991).

The status of these children is a social problem of such significance that it has been addressed by Congress in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 and President Clinton in an Executive Memorandum addressed to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Treasury, Labor, Commerce, and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

The Department of Health and Human Services has called for a doubling of the number of children moved from foster care to permanent family settings by the year 2002. This would require the number of permanent placements to increase from 27,000 in 1996 to 54,000 in 2002 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau, 1999).

One permanent family resource that can be used in achieving this goal is the creation of families by adoptive placements made to single persons. Adoption by single parents had its beginnings in the 1960s. Professional adoption workers at the time were concerned with the child's psychosocial development in the single-parent household, as

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well as the ability of the single parent to provide the necessary resources to properly provide for the child. Pressure from the adoption community, both agency boards, and potential single parents, in addition to the number of children waiting to be adopted, overcame these professional concerns. Adoptive placement with single parents proceeded for the next 3 decades, attracting little notice or research (Shireman, 1996).

Acceptance of single parents as a viable family form has been cballenged again in the late 1990s. Social worker values and attitudes about adoption are significant. For example, workers may hold out for a two-parent family for a child regardless of whether their assessment of the child specifically documents such a need. In many agencies, two-parent families are still viewed as the ideal adoptive home, even though half the children in this country will spend part of their lifetime in a single-parent household. A worker's attitude in this regard can delay or prevent a child from obtaining a family ofhislher own (Avery, 1997). It is significant to note, however, that an increasing number of children featured in adoption exchange photo listing books, such as those published by the Northwest Adoption Exchange and The Adoption Exchange, now actively solicit both single mothers and fathers as prospective adoptive parents.

The Research Goal

This research project investigated graduate social work students' knowledge of

and attitudes toward single parents as a family resource for special needs children. The study allowed the researcher to relate demographics, the knowledge level of special needs and single-parent adoption, and the relevant attitudes of the next generation of professional social workers. Since the knowledge base that forms the attitudes of the study sample toward single-parent adoption and special needs' children will create adoption policy and practice well into this century, it is necessary to take the initial steps in identifying those attitudes and the state of that knowledge base.

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There is agreement among researchers who have looked at the topics of special needs and single-parent adoption, that single adoptive parents are a viable and untapped resource in addressing the crisis of children without families. Do new social workers view single persons as a legitimate placement resource for waiting children? The majority of the literature reviewed for this research project was published in the middle to late 1990s. Has this research had an impact on those in training to be the next generation of social workers? Will these new social workers be receptive to the use of single-parent, adoptive families? The goal of this research project was to answer these questions.

Definition of Major Tenns

Adoption social work has a language of its own. The following are terms and

definitions proper to child welfare and adoptions. These will assist the reader in reviewing this study.

Disrupted Adoption

An adoption that is terminated prior to legal formalization.

Dissolved Adoption

An adoption that is terminated following its legal formalization.

Legally Free

Indicates that parental rights with regard to a child have been terminated by the court, thus making the child available to be adopted.

Pennanency or Permanency Planning

Identification and placement of an abused and/or neglected child in a safe, stable setting until emancipation or reaching the age of adulthood. Permanency planning may include a return to the child's biological parents, placement with a relative, long-term foster care, or adoption (Washington Families for Kids, 1999).

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Permanent Family

A family that is a permanent resource to a child past his or her 18th birthday; this may include being returned to the birth parent(s) or an alternative family such as a relative, adoptive family, guardian or foster family (Washington Families for Kids, 1999).

Photo Listing Book

A directory, usually compiled by geographic region, of special needs children awaiting adoption. Directories commonly include a child's picture, briefbiograpby, description of special needs, and the family configuration that the child's social worker believes would result in a successful placement.

Placement

Duration of a child's stay in one setting, which may be a foster, relative, or group home, or another setting such as an institution (Washington Families for Kids, 1999).

Single-Parent Adoption

Single-parent adoption is defined as adoption by a single mother or father; those parents who adopt as a couple and later divorce are not characterized as single parents. The former made a conscious decision to be a parent as a single adult, while the latter became single parents as a result of life circumstances (Groze, 1991).

Special Needs Children

Special needs children commonly include older children, physically handicapped children, children of mixed or minority ethnicity, children who are members of a sibling group, and children with emotional or behavioral problems, although these definitions vary from state to state (Groze & Rosenthal, 1991).

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Existing Research

To date, there bas been only limited research devoted to the outcomes of singleparent adoption of special needs children (McRoy, 1999). While there is substantial data on the status of special needs children awaiting adoption, there is no identifiable data on the attitudes of social workers toward the option of placing these children with single persons. What does exist is largely anecdotal in nature.

The researcher bas selected six studies that address both the status of special needs children and single-parent adoption to provide the basis for the present research. The studies were selected as a basis for research based on their soundness of methodology, clarity in reporting results, and the esteem with which the researchers are held in the field of adoptions. Background for each of these studies is presented, and relevance to the current research variables stated. Study outcomes are presented in the second section of this chapter.

The Studies

Shireman (1996) reviewed and reported on a longitudinal study of 15 single-

parent adoptive homes over a period of 14 years. The adopted children in this study were African American or biracial and were less than 2 years of age at the time of placement. The original sample consisted of 25 African American women, 3 White women, and 3 African American men. The age range was 29 to 50 years, with a median age of 34 years. Most were well educated. Twelve lived with extended families, and

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more than half planned to use extended families to meet their childcare needs. All were employed, about half being in the service professions. Incomes were uniformly low.

The study contained comparison groups of two-parent, same-race adoptions, and two-parent transraciaI adoptions. Upon reaching adolescence, comparison groups of children who had grown up with birth families were added. Parents and children were interviewed every 4 years. Despite twice-yearly attempts to retain contact with these families, overall only 90/0 of the original sample was located in 1982-1983 when the children were in early adolescence. Fifteen of the original single-parent families were located. None of the data of earlier contacts differentiated these 15 from the 16 that it was impossible to follow.

Groze (1991) examined what is known about single adoptive parents. The demographics and personal characteristics of single persons who adopt are reviewed, and the experiences of single parents who adopt are summarized.

McRoy (1999) undertook a study for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services seeking to identify child, family, and agency factors that influenced adoption with the following outcomes: intact, disrupted, and dissolved.

The sample consisted of 40 intact and 40 disrupted/dissolved (15 disrupted, and 25 dissolved) cases. Data were collected by a systematic review of case records. Detailed notes were taken regarding factors that might possibly have contributed to adoption outcomes. After an extensive review of research on intact and dissolved adoptions, a detailed list of birth family, child, adoptive family, and agency issues was developed. From this list, a case review comment instrument was created. Open-ended questions were included in the data-collection instrument. The instrument was later pretested and further modified with a sample of noneligible cases for the study.

Data were collected on the birth family, the child and his or her siblings, foster families, adoptive placements, and agency practices. Issues of significance with regard 6

to successful adoption outcomes included commitment of the adoptive parent(s) to making the adoption work, strength of the parents' marriage, parent-to-child communication skills and styles, willingness to seek professional help, previous parenting experience, previous parenting experience with special needs children, family support system, realistic parental expectations regarding the adoption, and outside community involvement.

Rosenthal and Groze (1992) conducted a study in 1988 that looked at the adoption experiences of 799 families who adopted children with special needs from Kansas, Oklahoma, and illinois. The adoptive parents completed mailed questionnaires covering areas such as support from family and friends, handicaps and disabilities, the perceived helpfulness of social workers and supportive services, school attendance and grades, behavioral problems, family functioning and relationships, parent-child relationships, and the impact of adoption on the family. Variables such as age, gender, out-ofhome placement history of the child, and type of adoption, i.e., adoptions by foster parents, adoption by single parents, and adoption of sibling groups were analyzed.

Families of children placed by four different adoption agencies compose the sample, which totaled 1,413. Only children over age 4 or over at the time of placement or age 17 or younger at the time of questionnaire mailing (1988) were included. Via systematic sampling, every fifth child (a total of607 children) was selected for the study. The survey was mailed in November of 1988. At each agency, one follow-up mailing was made to families that did not respond initially. Mailings were returned marked "address unknown" for 60 families, while 25 questionnaires were returned indicating that the child had pennanently moved out of the home. These were dropped from the study, since the intent of the study was to survey intact families. The response rate among the successfully contacted families, with children in the home was 6()O/o (799 of 1,328). The sample of 799 cases includes 267 (33%) families from the Oklahoma

7

Department of Human Services, 18 (2%) families from Project Adopt, a private Oklahoma agency, 184 (23%) families from Kansas, and 330 (41%) families from illinois.

The full sample is diverse and, given the participation of agencies from several states, at least somewhat representative of public adoption agencies in the Midwestern United States. The large sample size allows the opportunity to focus on the needs and outcomes for older children, who are a subgroup of special concern to adoption professionals.

Barth and Berry (1988) undertook a study in two integrated parts: the intake study and the interview study. A pool of adoptive placements of older children was identified from placement records, basic demographic data (e.g., the age of the child), and outcomes (disrupted or stable) were determined. Relationships between the basic data and outcomes were analyzed, and a number of the families were interviewed to gather information about additional indicators of disruption.

The sample was drawn from the population of adoptive placements in 13 Northern and Central California counties from January 1, 1980 to June 30, 1984 as identified from the adoption placement forms that were filed at the time of placement. Deleted from the sample were all adoptions of children younger than 3 years of age at the time of placement, and all children placed from out of the state, leaving a final sample of 1,156.

Cases were verified by adoption unit supervisors and social workers as (a) not disrupted (n = 831), (b) disrupted before the legalization of the adoption (n = 79), (c) set aside after legalization (n = 16), (d) outcome could not be determined (n = 154), and (e) could not identify the case requested (n = 76). The final study sample on which outcomes could be determined was 927 children.

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The key variables related to adoption disruption are identified as primarily demographic, but do include indices for child behavior and attitude toward the prospect of adoption. Variables are listed under the headings of Child Characteristics, Parent and Household Characteristics, Family Interaction Characteristics, and Service Characteristics.

In a focused analysis of data and findings from an earlier study, Groze and Rosenthal (1991) directed attention to the outcomes of single-parent adoption. The sample is a subset of that from the previous study. Due to the number of respondents in the original study (799), a relatively large number of single parents were available for analysis (n = 122, 15%) and outcome comparison.

Variables in this study include, but are not limited to, demographics of the adopted child, demographics of the adoptive parent, educational functioning of the adopted child, parent satisfaction with postplacement agency services, analysis of other services for both child and parent, and respondent's perception of the adoption experience. The study is unique in its utility as a basis for the present research.

Research Variables as Derived From a Review of the Literature

Ideally, the present research would have employed an existing attitude survey

instrument to increase the reliability and validity of the study. A search for an instrument relevant to social worker attitudes and adoptions was unsuccessful. The following are variables derived from the literature and used in this study. They are separated into two sections: (a) Child Welfare and Adoption Knowledge, and (b) Attitudes Regarding Single-Parent Adoption of Special Needs Children.

Child Welfare and Adoption Knowledge

In addressing the needs of the current population of special needs children in out

of home care, it is necessary to know something of the demographics of the children requiring services. The United States Department of Health stated in January of 1999

9

that there are 520,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States; 110,000 of these are legally free and available for adoption. Further, the Health Department goes on to report that there was a mean age of 8.2 years and a median of 7.8 years for this population. The ethnic breakdown is 28% Caucasian (30,776), 56% African American (61,549),90/0 Hispanic (10,367), American Indian/Alaskan Native 1% (1,092), Asian Pacific Islander 1 % (739), and Unknown 5% (5,466). The gender distribution is 52% male (56,915) and 48% female (53,085); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau, 1999). When considering the placement of one of these children with a single parent, it is vital to have a comparable knowledge of the parents' demographics.

What, then, are the relevant demographics of single people who attempt to adopt? Several studies report on the attributes of single adoptive parents. As with oneparent households in the general population, most single adoptive parents are female (Groze, 1991; Groze & Rosenthal, 1991; Rosenthal & Groze, 1992; Shireman, 1996). For example, Groze reported that 84% of single people seeking to adopt are women. Similar findings are reported in all of the studies in this review of the literature. It should be noted, however, that one in seven people who contacted the National Committee for Single Adoptive Parents were men (Shireman).

With 56% of the children awaiting adoption of African American heritage, what, then, is the ethnic breakdown of single parents seeking to adopt? Most often, single parents seeking to adopt are members of minority groups (Rosenthal & Groze, 1992).

In her study of 80 adoptions for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, McRoy (1999) found that the majority of single persons seeking to adopt were of African American Heritage. Shireman (1996) and Groze and Rosenthal (1991) reported similar findings.

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Information about the characteristics of single-parent adopters comes mainly from those who are members of single-parent, adoptive organizations. These data indicate that most single adoptive parents have graduate education (S~ 1996). In their study of 129 single-parent adoptions, Groze and Rosenthal (1991) noted the following data. Twenty percent of the single fathers and 26% of the single mothers had less than a high school education. Twenty percent of the single fathers and 23% of the single mothers had a high school diploma or OED. Five percent of the single fathers and 22% of the single mothers had some college education. Thirty percent of the single fathers and 11 % of the single mothers were college graduates. Twenty-five percent of the single fathers and 17% of the single mothers had a graduate degree or above.

In regard to the financial status of the single parent seeking to adopt, the four studies that did report on this issue were uniform in their findings. Single parents tend to have lower incomes than two-parent adoptive families (Groze, 1991). Shireman (1996) noted that incomes of single parents are lower than that of couples who adopt, although 40% of the men who adopted earned $40,000.00 or more. Groze and Rosenthal (1991) reported a mean income of$21,000.00 for single adoptive parents and $38,000.000 for couples who adopted.

What are the characteristics of the children who single persons seek to be a part of their family? The special needs children whom single people seek to adopt have the problems associated with all special needs children; however, in the two studies which addressed this issue, the severity of the problems presented by children of single adoptive parents was less than that of couples who adopted similar children (Groze & Rosenthal, 1991; Rosenthal & Groze, 1992).

The children adopted by single parents are older than those adopted by couples.

Shireman (1996) noted that single parents want to adopt an older child rather than an infant. Barth and Berry (1988) also found that single parents were more likely to adopt 11

older children. Groze and Rosenthal (1991) found in their study of 129 single parents that 91 % adopted a child over the age of S years. Specifically, they found that the age of the children adopted broke down as follows: .80/0 (1) was age 0-2 years, S% (6) were age 3-S years, 18% (21) were age 6-8 years, 24% (28) were 9-11 years, 32% (38) were 12-14 years, and 21% (2S) were age IS-17 years.

With gender, there is some differing of findings in the studies reviewed. Groze (1991) found that most single parents adopt boys. In her study for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, McRoy (1999) found that 7()o/o of her sample adopted boys. Barth and Berry (1988) indicated that singles are more likely than couples to adopt boys. Rosenthal and Groze (1992) reported that the majority of single parents studied were female; therefore, these single parents more often adopted girls.

A final variable addressed for this section is the phenomena of single-parent adoption as a resource for the children awaiting permanent homes. Since it was first addressed in the literature in the early 1970s, has the number of single people wanting to adopt remained stable, decreased, or increased? In 1975, approximately 3% of adoptions were by single persons. In Oregon for the year 1992, fully 12% of adoptions were by single people (Shireman, 1996). Groze (1991) reponed that there is an increase in the percentage of single-parent adoptions completed in the 1980s as compared to the 1970s; indeed, the number of single parents who adopt has increased dramatically.

Attitudes Regarding Single-Parent Adoption of Special Needs Children

Is a single-parent adoption more likely to end unsuccessfully than an adoption

by a couple? Most studies found that single parents were equally represented in both disrupted and intact adoptions. Data were collected from five states on the characteristics of children and their adoptive parents. Results indicated that single parents constitute 3% of the adoptive placements and 9% of the disruptions. Data analysis on

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special needs children placed for adoption by Spaulding for Children in New Jersey between 1975 and 198 I indicated that 200/0 of placements involved single parents and 26% of disruptions involved single parents, a difference without statistical significance. Single-parent placements were no more likely to disrupt than placements with couples (Groze, 1991). Barth and Berry (1988) found that single-parent families and couples disrupted at an equal rate.

Is the single-parent family a useful resource for the child with previous placement in residential or psychiatric facilities? Groze and Rosenthal (1991) found in their study of 799 special needs placements, 122 of which were with single parents, that children who had experienced group-home or psychiatric stays prior to placement managed particularly well in single-parent adoptions. This finding may, in fact, be an outgrowth of the next variable.

Is the simplicity of the one parent-one child relationship more conducive to a positive placement outcome than the more complex dynamics of a marital, and parent - child relationship? In response to this proposition, Groze (1991) stated that it is an advantage that a single adult, unencumbered with the demands of a marital relationship, can give the kind and amount of involvement and nurturance needed by some children who have had severely damaging experiences. For children who need intense and close relationships with an adult, single-parent homes may be particularly appropriate. For some children, such a close bond may meet their needs and be a step toward normal development. Shireman (1996) echoed this idea in relating that the simplicity of relationships in a single-parent home has been noted as a potential strength for some children who come from complicated and disrupted backgrounds. With one adoptive parent, affection comes without competition. It is impossible to recreate family situations in which two parents are manipulated into conflict, disagreement over how to

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raise the child, or even physical abuse. There is a security in this simplicity that can be healing.

Is it safer for the special needs child to wait for a two-parent family rather than be adopted by a single parent? Groze (1991) reported that single-parent adoption has emerged as a good plan for children, and that single-parent families function well. Not only are they a competent resource for children, but waiting to be adopted may have an adverse adjustment impact on the child. Being adopted by a single parent, however, does not appear to have a detrimental effect. Single-parent adoptive families are not only practical, but they are an untapped resource for children with special needs.

The final variable addresses academic outcomes for the special needs child adopted by the single parent. What does the literature indicate regarding children placed with single parents in comparison with the child placed with an adoptive couple? In their comprehensive study of special needs adoption, Rosenthal and Groze (1992) indicated that academic outcomes for the children of the families studied were excellent, both for the single parent and couples. Among children age 6 to 1797% (108 of Ill) in single-parent families were attending school, and 990/0 (561 of 566) of children in two-parent families were attending school. Fifty-one percent (48 of 95) of children in one-parent families and 53% (246 of 465) of children in two-parent families earned grades of"8 average" or better in the semester just preceding the survey. Seventy percent (80 of 114) of children in single-parent families and 66% (390 of 55 1) of children in two-parent families enjoyed school according to their parents' report. None of these findings regarding education functioning revealed significant differences between single and two-parent families.

In concluding, the literature indicates that single-parent adoptions of special needs children are an increasing percentage of all special needs placements. The single

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person seeking to adopt offers a vital, untapped resource of families for the increasing population of special needs children awaiting adoption.

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CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY

This research project surveyed the knowledge and attitudes of graduate social work students regarding permanency planning issues and adoptive placement with single persons. The areas addressed included: (a) sample demographics, (b) knowledge of child welfare adoption issues, and (c) attitudes regarding the adoptive placement of special needs children in single-parent homes.

Design of Study

This study used an exploratory and descriptive design. The intent was to relate the demographics, the level of special needs and single-parent adoption knowledge, and the attitudes of the sample towards the placement of special needs children in singleparent adoptive homes. It sought to determine (a) whether students who knew more about special needs adoption would have a more favorable attitude toward single-parent adoptions than those who knew less, (b) whether students who had completed at least 1 year of field work placement would have a more favorable attitude toward single-parent adoptions than those at an earlier stage in their graduate program, (c) whether students who were members of the National Association of Social Workers would have a more favorable attitude toward single-parent adoptions than those who were not, and (d) whether students raised by a single parent would have a more favorable attitude toward single-parent adoptions than those raised by couples. An exploratory, descriptive design was chosen, since the researcher was primarily concerned with observing then describing the attitudes of graduate social work students.

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Sample

The sampling in this study was non-random and purposive. The sample size

was 61 students; 61 of 61 questionnaires being returned. It ranged in age from 23 to 52 years. The researcher used only graduate level social work students of the Children, Youth, and Family concentration from the Department of Social Work at California State University at Long Beach.

Procedure

The researcher identified the sample: graduate social work students at

California State University, Long Beach. The researcher then identified the classes in which the needed sample would be enrolled. Due to time constraints, the researcher limited the number of classes to be surveyed to three. The classes that were included in the study were: one section of Social Work 560, one section of Social Work 594, and one section of Social Work 670.

The researcher asked the course instructors for permission to survey their students. Once this permission was obtained, the researcher and the instructor determined a date and time on which to administer the surveys.

The researcher was introduced to the class either as the class started or at the break period. The researcher addressed the class and explained the research project topic and the intent of the questionnaire (Appendix A). The researcher then distributed the informed consent (Appendix B), and the questionnaire to those students interested in participating in the survey. Instructions for completing both items were given. The researcher then left the classroom during the completion of the questionnaires. The questionnaire took approximately 15 minutes to complete. The questionnaires were collected upon completion and kept separate from the informed consents.

Upon completion of the survey, the researcher thanked the participants and answered any final questions before leaving.

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Instrument

The instrument, constructed by the researcher, was composed of three sections:

(a) demographics, (b) child welfare and adoption knowledge, and (c) attitudes toward single-parent adoption of special needs children.

The demographics section consisted of nine questions which address age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, parental status, family-of-origin composition, adoption status, stage in the social work program, and professional membership. The questions were closed ended.

The child welfare and adoption knowledge section consisted of 11 questions which asked for an estimation of the number of children awaiting adoption, the medical status of waiting children, the ethnicity of waiting children, the policy of The Child Welfare League of America (1998) regarding single-parent adoption, the gender of most single adoptive parents, the numerical stability of the single adoptive parent population over the last 25 years, whether adopting couples or singles experience greater problems with their children, the gender of child most often selected by single adoptive parents, the ethnicity of single adoptive parents, the educational status of single adoptive parents as opposed to adoptive couples, and whether the adoptive child's age is a factor in adoption success. The questions included multiple choice and, TruelFalse type responses.

The attitude section of the questionnaire consisted of eight questions. These questions were formatted into closed-ended, Likert-scale responses. The students were able to respond within a range of 1-5: Strongly Disagree = 1, Disagree = 2, Neutral = 3, Agree = 4, and Strongly Agree = 5. The questions asked the students to rate whether single-parent adoptions were more likely to fail than adoption by couples, whether single-parent adoptive families were a viable resource for children emerging from group home or psychiatric placements, how single adoptive parent emotional maturity

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compared to that of adopting couples, whether it was safer for a child to remain in foster care or be adopted by a single person, whether academic performance was inferior for children of single adoptive parents as opposed to adopting couples, whether it is preferable to retain a child in foster care than place himlher with a single adoptive parent, whether the simplicity of a single-parent family could be therapeutic for the adopted child, and finally, to rate their comfort level in placing a child with a single parent.

Data Analysis

Analysis of the data began with frequency distributions and measures of central

tendency to illustrate the demographic composition of the sample and to obtain a preliminary sense of the respondents' answers to the 10 knowledge and 7 attitude variables included in the survey instrument.

Responses to the questions which comprised the knowledge and attitude sections of the survey were recoded into two new variables to allow analysis with the Pear sons r, and independent samples t tests. This provided a statistical representation of the sample's response to the survey instrument and answers to the questions posed at the outset of the study.

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CHAPTER 4 DESCRIPTIVE ANALYSES

This chapter contains an analysis of the data obtained from the survey of the study sample. Sample demographics and correlation between child welfare adoption knowledge and attitudes toward single-parent adoption of special needs children are presented. Additionally, variations in attitudes based upon status in the graduate program, having been raised by a single parent, and membership in the National Association of Social Workers are presented.

Table 1 illustrates the demographics of the study sample. The sample consisted of graduate students enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at California State University, Long Beach. The study sample included 61 students (N= 61). Gender characteristics werel8% (n = 11) male, while 82% (n = 50) were female. More than a third of the sample was Caucasian (390/0), another third was Latino (35.6%), with the others consisted of African American (15.3%), Asian (3.4%), and other ethnic groups (6.8%). Marital status revealed 45.9 % (n = 28) were single---never married, 31.1% (n = 19) were married, 8.2% (n = 5) were divorced, 13.1% (n = 8) were cohabitating, and 1.6% (n = 1) identified as widow/widower. The age characteristics of the sample spanned a range from 23 years to 52 years; the mean being 30 years, and the mode being 25 years.

Statistics for completion ofa year offield placement revealed that 37 (60.7%) had completed 1 year offield placement, while 24 (39.3%) had not completed at least a year. Membership in the National Association of Social Workers broke down as 24.6% (n = 15) members, while 75.4% (n = 46) were not members. In conclusion, nearly one

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TABLE 1
Demographics of the Sample (N = 61)
Range
Variable n p M (Years)
Gender
Male 11 18
Female 50 82
Age 30.29 23-52
RaceiEthnicity
African American 9 15.3
Asian 2 3.4
Caucasian 23 39.0
Latino 21 35.6
Other 4 6.8
Marital Status
Single-Never
Married 28 45.9
Married 19 31.1
Divorced 5 8.2
Cohabitating 8 13.1
WidowlWidower 1 1.6
Completed 1 Year
ofField Placement
Yes . 37 60.7
No 24 39.3
Member ofNASW
Yes 15 24.6
No 46 75.4
Adopted Person?
Yes 1 1.6
No 60 98.4
Are you a Single Parent?
Yes 3 5.0
No 57 95.0
Raised by a Single Parent?
Yes 16 26.2
No 45 73.8 21

third of the subjects were raised by a single parent, while only 1.6% (n = 1) was an adopted child.

In order to determine the relationship between the sample's child welfare and adoption knowledge and its attitude toward single-parent adoption of special needs children, instrument questions 11 through 20 were recoded into a single new variable labeled Adoption Knowledge, and questions 21 through 28 were recoded into a single new variable labeled Attitude. By summing the sample's responses to these two ranges of questions, scales were devised with which to rate each new variable. A lower score on the Adoption Knowledge variable indicates a lesser knowledge of child welfare and adoption issues, while a higher score indicates greater knowledge. Similarly, a lower score on the Attitude variable indicates a more negative view of single-parent adoption of special needs children, while a higher score indicates a more positive view. Table 2 illustrates the results of a Pearson's r correlation that was run on the two recoded variables. The table reveals a slightly negative, nonsignificant correlation between Adoption Knowledge and Attitude toward single-parent adoption.

Independent samples t tests were run to determine the difference in Attitude means for Yes and No responses on the variables completion of one year offield placement, membership in the NASW, and were you raised by a single parent. The results are presented in Table 3. The data indicate that the sample's responses for each group under the three variables measured were negative and nonsignificant.

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TABLE 2

Pearson's T Correlation for Adoption Knowledge and Attitude Toward Single-Parent Adoption of Special Needs Children

Knowledge

Attitude

Knowledge

Attitude

-.244 .058

-.244 .058 1.000

1.000

r

r

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TABLE 3
Independent Samples t Test for Equality of Means-
Adoption Knowledge And Attitudes
Variables n M t P
Completed 1 Year of
Field Placement
Yes 37 21.2432 -.338 .737
No 24 21.5000
Raised by a Single Parent
Yes 16 21.1250 -.352 .726
No 45 21.4222
Member of the National
Association of Social
Workers
Yes 15 21.2667 -.119 .906
No 46 21.3696 24

CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION

This study sought to determine the answers to four questions. Does a greater knowledge of special needs adoption correlate with an increased receptivity to the use of single-parent families as adoptive placements for special needs children? Does advanced standing in the graduate program in social work lead to a greater acceptance of single-parent placements for special needs children? Does membership in the National Association of Social Workers correlate with a greater acceptance of singleparent homes for children with special needs? Do persons raised by a single parent look more favorably upon placement of special needs children with single parents than those raised by couples? While this study in preliminary in nature, it did lead to some interesting answers.

Findings

The four research questions noted above were put to 61 graduate students in the

form of a self-administered questionnaire. Statistical analysis determined that there was a slightly negative, nonsignificant correlation (p = .058, r = -.244) between the level of knowledge of special needs adoption and the placement of special needs children in single-parent families. Similarly, advanced standing in the graduate program in social work resulted in a nonsignificant variance in means (1 = - .338,p = .737) with those who were at an earlier stage in the program. Membership in National Association of Social Workers appeared to have no significant impact on attitudes toward single-parent adoption of special needs children (1 = -.119,p = .906). Finally, being raised in a

25

single-parent home also appeared to impact minimally on attitudes toward special needs placements with single parents (1 = - .3S2,p = .726).

Limitations

This study had several limitations. The sample size was limited to 61 graduate

students surveyed on a cross-sectional basis. The small size of the sample limited the ability to generalize the results to the larger population of new social workers; furthermore, due to the nature of the study, it is not feasible to follow the subjects as they move into the work force to assess their attitudes as they mature professionally. The sample was purposive rather than random. Again, due to the nature of the study with its associated time limitations, a readily available subsample of the total population of graduate social work students was surveyed. The survey instrument was constructed by the researcher without testing for reliability and validity. While there has been study devoted to both single-parent adoption and the adoption of special needs children, the researcher was unable to identify a survey instrument devoted to the attitudes of social workers toward this specific population that had been tested for reliability and validity.

Implications for Further Research

As noted at the outset of this study, there are in excess of one halfmillion

children in out-of-home placements in the United States. There is every indication that this number will continue to rise. Approximately one fifth of these children are waiting for permanent families. Single persons seeking to adopt are a resource for some of these children. What are the barriers preventing the full utilization of this resource? An expanded, longitudinal study of the attitudes of both new and presently practicing adoption social workers needs to be undertaken to answer this question and remove identified barriers. Training for those in the field and revised child welfare and adoption curricula for those in training could result from such a study. In excess of 110,000 children are dependent upon social workers to find them permanent families;

26

the President and Congress of the United States have called upon the child welfare profession to address this problem immediately. One response is to build on and surpass the present study.

Implications for Social Work Practice

The President and Congress of the United States of America, as well as the

Department of Human Services, have called for a solution to the rising number of children languishing without families in out-of-home care. In the end, it falls to the individual agencies, public and private, along with the line social worker to effect this solution. Single-parent families have been a fixture of American Society for 40 years; use of single persons desiring to create families through adoption must be freed from whatever stigmas or biases exist in the attitudes and policies of agencies and social workers. The first step is to identify these stigmas and biases, trace their origins, and eliminate them. A prime starting point for this effort is in the curricula of schools of social work. Is adoption addressed? What is the adoption knowledge level of graduate social work students at entry and exit from the program? How is the use of nontraditional families, in this case the single-parent family, presented? The profession of social work has been given a charge by the highest political offices in the land. How will we carry it out?

27

APPENDICES

28

APPENDIX A QUESTIONNAIRE

29

Social Workers and Single People Who Want to Adopt

This survey is part of a study being conducted by a candidate for the Master of Social Work degree. The purpose of the study is to assess graduate social work students' attitudes toward single people adopting special needs children. The questions in this survey will ask you about yourself, your knowtedge of child welfare and adoption, and the use of single persons as adoptive parents.

Often the foster children who won't be going home have special needs that cause them to be less attractive to people who are considering adoption. These youngsters may be older, or have physical, mental, emotional or behavioral chaDenges. They might be members of a racial or ethnic minority, or have siblings that must be adopted with them.

Your answers to the following 28 questions will be greatly appreciated.

I. Demographics

1. What is your gender? (Circle one) 1. Male 2. Female

2. How old are you in years? _

3. What is your racial I ethnic identity? (Circle one)

1. African American
2. . Asian
3. Caucasian (White)
4. Latino
5. Native American
6. Middle Eastem
7. Other (specify) 4. Marit~1 Status (Circle one)

1. Single - never married

2. Married

3. Divorced

4. Co-habitating

5. Widowlwidower

6. Other (specify) _

5. Have you completed one year of field placement? (Circle one)

1. Yes

2. No

30

6. Are you a member of the National Association of Social Workers?

(Circle one)

1. Yes

2. No

7. Are you an adopted person? (Circle one)

1. Yes

2. No

8. Are you a single parent? (Circle one)

1. Yes

2. No

9. Were you raised by a single parent? (Circle one)

1. Yes

2. .No

II. Child Welfare and Adoption Knowledge

10. Please estimate the number of children awaiting adoptive families in the United States. (Circle one)

1. 10,000
2. 25,000
3. 50,000
4. 75,000
5. 100,000 11. Most children awaiting adoption are healthy infants. (Circle one)

1. True

2. False

31

12. Most children awaiting adoption are Caucasian. (Circle one)

1. True

2. False

13. The Child Welfare League encourages adoption by married couples whenever

possible. (Circle one)

1. True

2. False

14. Most single persons who adopt are female. (Circle one)

1. True

2 False

15. The percentage of single persons who adopt has remained stable for the last twenty-five years. (Circle one)

1. True

2. False

16. Over time children adopted by single parents have more problems than those adopted by couples. (CircJe one)

1. True

2. False

17. Most single people who adopt select which gender of child? (Circle one)

1. Boy

2. Girl

18. Most single people who adopt are Caucasian. (Circle one)

1. True

2. False

32

19. The older the child is when adopted, the more likely the adoption will be successful. (Circle one)

1. True

2. False

20. Single persons who adopt are better educated than couples who adopt. (Circle one)

1. True

2. False

III. Attitudes Reg.rdira Sing" P,,,nt Adoption of Specill Needs Children

21. Single parent adoptions are more likely to end unsuccessfully than adoptions by couples. (Cirde one)

1

2

3

4

5 Strongly Agree

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

22. Single parent adoptive families have been proven to be an excellent resource for children who have been placed in group homes or psychiatric facilities.

(Circle one)

1

2

3

4

5 Strongly Agree

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

23. Single persons who adopt possess greater emotional maturity than couples who adopt. (Circle one)

1

2

3

4

5 Strongly Agree

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

33

24. It is safer for a child to wait longer for a two parent family rather than be adopted by a single person. (Circle one)

1

2

3

4

5 Strongly Agree

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

25. Academic outcomes for special needs children adopted by the single parent will be inferior to special needs children adopted by couples.

(Circle one)

1

2

3

..

5

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly Agree

26. It is better to keep a child in foster care than place him with a qualified single parent. (Circle one)

1

2

3

4

5

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly Agree

27. The simplicity of a single parent adoptive family can be therapeutic for a child with ~pecial needs. (Circle one)

1

2

3

..

5

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly Agree

28. I would be comfortable placing a child with a qualified Single parent. (Circle one)

1

2

3

..

5

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly Agree

Prepared by John Thomas Crowley

34

APPENDIXB CONSENT FORM

35

Informed CODsent Fona

Califoraia State VDivenity at Lon.Beacb

Tbe Single Pareat aad Special Needs AdoptiOD: A Study of Graduate Social Work Students' Attitudes and Kaowledle

This survey is pan of a study being conducted by a candidate for the Master of Social Work Degree as a component of the thesis rcquiremenL The study will address graduate social work students' attitudes and knowledge of single people adopting special needs children. The questions in this survey will ask about you, your knowledge of child welfare and adoption, and the use of single persons as adoptive parents.

Participation in this study is voluntary. You are free to decline participation or stop at any time. There is no penalty for declining to participate, and participation or non-participation will have no effect on your grade in this class. If there are any questions contained in the survey that you do not want to answer, you may skip them. If you choose not to complete the survey, simply place the blank forms in the envelopes provided.

Your confidentiality while participating in this survey will be maintained by separating the informed consent form from the survey and placing each in the separate envelopes provided. Both the documents will be kept in a secure, locked environment for a period of three years following the research. No one will have access to either document other than the researcher, the thesis advisor. and the thesis committee.

This survey will take approximately ten to fifteen minutes to finish. If you agree to participate. please print your first and last names below. Please sip with your full aame. and date in the spaces provided.

No foreseen risks or direct benefits are anticipated for the participants.

If you have any questions regarding this study, you may contact my thesis advisor at Cal.

State, Long Beach. Dr. Janaki Santhiveeran at . or the researcher. John Crowley at

. If you have questions regarding your rights as research participants you may address them to the CSULB Office of Research at (562) 985-5314.

Print your full name

Signature

Date

36

REFERENCES

37

REFERENCES

Avery, R. (1997). Adoption policy and special needs children. Westport, CT:

Auburn.

Barth, R., & Berry, M. (1988). Adoption and disruption. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine De Gruyter.

Child Welfare League of America (1988). Standards for adoption service (Rev. ed.).

Washington, DC: Author.

Groze, V. (1991). Adoption and single parents: A review. Child Welfare. 3,321-332. Groze, V., & Rosenthal, J. (1991). Single parents and their adopted children: A psychosocial analysis. Contemporary Human Services. 2. 67-77.

McRoy, R. (1999). Special needs adoption: Practice issues. New York: Garland. Rosenthal, J., & Groze, V. (1992). Special needs adoption: A study of intact families.

New York: Praeger.

Shireman, J. (1996). Single-parent adoptive homes. Children and Youth Services Review. 18(1&2),23-36.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau. (1999, January).

Adoption foster care and analysis and reporting system (Federal report; accessed September 2, 1999) [On-line]. Available: www.acf.dhhs.gov/ programslcb/statslafcarsl

Washington Families for Kids. (1999, January). The Washington permanency framework: A 5-year plan for ensuring permanent families for children in foster care (State report; accessed February 21,2000) [On-line]. Available: www.chs-waorg

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