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An Education in Adoption

Psychology Students Review Adoption Research

By Jeffrey Overstreet (

Students in the “Psychological Research Methods” class taught by Ursula Krentz, an assistant professor of psychology in Seattle Pacific University’s School of Psychology, Family, and Community, are learning that adoptive parents need to prepare carefully for the specific challenges of adoption.

Every time she teaches this course, she says, groups of students — assigned to review scholarly literature on a topic in psychology — form to study adoption and foster care. Many of them have family members who were adopted, and some were adopted themselves.

During Spring Quarter 2013, students reviewed and wrote about recent studies of families who adopt children with special needs, paying particular attention to the connection between their levels of preparedness and their satisfaction with their adoption experience.

“I used to think that if the family was loving and nurturing, their adopted kids should be fine,” says senior Jessica Hogue. “But there are often so many pre-adoption issues that are formative for the next 18 years of a child’s development.”

Senior Amanda Marrs is encouraged by her studies. “Families who are well-prepared for difficult behavior report the same levels of satisfaction post-adoption as those who adopt children without disabilities,” she says. She’s learned that adoptive parents should request records such as past medical reports to better care for their new children.

Senior Sarah Nordlund adds, “When parents know that a child with a condition like fetal alcohol syndrome is not going to be attached to their family right away — that may help the child eventually become attached to them. They’re not setting the child up for failure.”

Krentz sees the assignment as an exercise in finding reliable information in a vast sea of resources. “Understanding the difference between just wanting to help, and helping in a way that has been shown — through research — to really, truly help, is very important,” she says. “We are teaching them to be discerning, critical, and effective helpers.”