Doctoral Student Fellowship

Erika Weissinger, Goldman School of Public Policy

Reasons for Attrition Among Public Adoption Seekers: Findings from interviews with individuals who did not complete the process



State administrators for foster care agencies consistently report that the main reason so many foster children remain in care is that they do not have enough available adoptive parents. A recent study has found that the shortage of available parents can be attributed to problems of retention to a greater extent than problems of recruitment. The purpose of this study is to identify the main reasons general applicant adoption seekers do not complete the adoption process. I explore these theories through in-depth one-on-one interviews with public adoption seekers who did not adopt a foster child. I also interview a subpopulation of public adoption seekers who did adopt a foster child as well as agency social workers involved in the recruitment, training, licensing, and matching process. I find that the most commonly reported reasons for not taking the next step in the adoption process include changes in personal circumstances (such as losing a job, getting divorced, or becoming ill), inability to meet agency requirements (such as an insufficient number of bedrooms or insufficient income), and concerns about the process (such as fear about becoming attached to a child who could be reunified with his or her parents or moved to another adoptive home). I find that lower-income adoption seekers are more likely to drop out due to insufficient income or because they do not have enough bedrooms in their homes. I find that upper-income adoption seekers are more likely to drop out because they do not have time to attend the adoptive parent training.