Breaking Down the Barriers to Adoption

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Until recently, military families have been hindered by adoption agency rules and stringent criteria that they are not able to meet, such as lengthy residency requirements, mandatory meetings that conflict with work schedules, and home ownership. Realizing the negative effects these rules have created, a few agencies have changed their procedures in order to encourage the adoption of children with special needs by families in the military.

With the support of a federal grant, Welcome House, an adoption agency based in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, sponsors information nights on military bases in the Delaware Valley to talk about adoption, and more specifically, to describe the types of children who are waiting to be adopted. They have instituted a 6-week homestudy program for military families that accommodates the families' schedules and takes place on the military base, making it convenient for families who live in or around the area to attend. Other innovative federally supported projects have been started by adoption agencies in Virginia, Arizona, Alaska, Tennessee and Washington, DC, to break down the barriers that military families face when wanting to adopt. These agencies see military families as a neglected resource with many of the attributes of successful adoptive families.

The grantees used creativity to overcome potential barriers to adoption by military families. Examples of their creative solutions include:

  • Training military personnel on installations (e.g., social workers, chaplains, etc.) to recruit families, complete home studies, or conduct post-placement follow-up visits for families stationed overseas.
  • Training and sensitizing civilian social workers to the cultural standards and communication styles of military personnel, so they could better appreciate the unique culture of many military families.
  • Offering flexibility in the timing of education and/or home study processes.
  • Providing the final court hearing by telephone after completing the post-placement services.

Successful recruitment campaigns and adoption processes with military families are dependent on cooperative relationships between military services and agency personnel. Adoption workers need to understand and respect the military command structure and lifestyle, and military personnel need to be educated about the adoption process.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (

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