Arthur C. Emlen

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning

Physical Description

3, xii, 157 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


Social work, Adoption -- Oregon, Foster parents -- Oregon




This research evaluates the results of a change in policy by Oregon's Children's Services Division permitting foster parents to adopt their foster child. A comparison was made between two groups of children, both of whom were seen by their caseworkers as not likely to return home and adoptable. One group was believed likely to be adopted by foster parents and the other believed likely to be adopted by new parents. Process and outcome of placement efforts for the two groups are described and compared. The study sample, comprised of 155 children, were followed for 28 months from the time the decision was made that they were not likely to return home and were adoptable. Decisions necessary to reach the adoption goal were identified, and the time they took were summarized for the sample. An assessment was made of the extent to which variables having to do with characteristics of the child, his history with the agency and the influence of the agency and court accounted for decisions made and time. From the results of this study it appears that adoption by foster parents is a viable option for permanent placement. It can be accomplished as quickly, for as many children, and with no more risk than adoption by new parents. No difference was found in the proportion of the sample who were adopted by new parents and those adopted by foster parents. It took approximately one year, no matter what the outcome. Children who might not otherwise be placeable were adopted by foster parents. These were the older children who had been in foster care longer and were considered less placeable. This provides a placement option for those most difficult to place. Though adoption was seen as likely, half of the sample (74 of 155) remained in foster care. Of these, 31 percent (23 of 74) were freed from parents but not adopted. Children who remained in foster care are the oldest and the least placeable in the sample. For these children the options for exit from foster care are limited, and this seems to call for an intensive effort to find adoptive homes. Also needed is a closer monitoring of cases from entry into foster care to assure that the case is resolved as quickly as possible. Children were more likely to be placed in a permanent home if they liere part of a demonstration project which assigned special caseworkers to work intensively toward the goal of finding a permanent home for the child. Return to parents had the highest priority; or, if this was not possible, adoption. Eleven percent of the sample returned to their parents, though they had been thought not likely to return home. Children chosen for the project efforts were younger and more placeable. Methods used by the project caseworkers should be made available for every case to facilitate their early resolution. Several findings point to a need for some formal case review process. Some case decisions which should have been made on the facts of the case were accounted for, at least in part, by caseworker attitude. Such bias might be reduced by basing decisions on the consensus of several informed people.


Portland State University. School of Urban Affairs.

Persistent Identifier