PSU Adoptions Therapy program receives regional award
Author: Nancy Eichsteadt, Graduate School of Education
Posted: September 26, 2012

Adoptions staffThe University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Region West named PSU’s Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Parents program the 2012 winner of the Honor of Excellence Award for Outstanding Noncredit Program.

Jessica DuPont, chair of the judging committee, said “On behalf of the nine-person judging team, congratulations! Your program was incredibly impressive and I’m excited by how much impact it’s making, even outside of Oregon.”

The PSU Adoptions program, begun in 2003, is a collaborative program administered by Continuing Education in the Graduate School of Education. The program manager is Marion Sharp, working with PSU’s Kellie Herold, Center for Improvement in Services to Children and Their Families in the School of Social Work; Toni Ferguson, Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center; Kelly DeLany, NW Resource Associates; and Kathy Prouty, Oregon Department of Human Services State Adoption Program Manager.  The ongoing collaboration has been one of the program’s strongest benefits.

The Adoptions program was created out of a pressing need for mental health therapists and agencies working with adoptive and foster children and their families to address the unique and specific issues these families encounter. While human service providers are trained to work with families and children, the differences between raising biological and adoptive/foster children are significant. Adoptive and foster children often present with histories of abuse, neglect, medical and behavioral problems, and adjustment and attachment disorders. In Oregon alone, there are approximately 10,500 adopted children and 8,466 children in foster care each day, but very few therapists who specialize in this area, especially in rural parts of the state. A program was needed that could be accessible for both metro Portland and nonurban therapists.

“Ms. Sharp and her team have worked very hard with national and local experts to develop a multidisciplinary, high quality program,” says Cheryl Livneh, associate dean of the Graduate School of Education. “They have continued to use participant feedback to revise and improve the format and the workshop content, so that it reflects the best practices for working with foster/adoptive families. This partnership should serve as a model for programs across the country.”   

Continuing Education in the Graduate School of Education convened partners from the School of Social Work and the PSU community to design and implement this 10-month long series of classes that are informed by regional and national experts. Each month, there are either two day-long seminars or a month-long online course. A final culminating project completes the certificate. Individuals who complete the program are entered into an online Adoption Therapy Resource Guide available to adoptive and foster parents throughout the state.

The Adoption classes employ distance education technology in order to serve a wider audience. Students attend from as far away as Alaska, Ohio and Texas. Between fall 2010, and winter 2012, there were nearly 900 enrollments with 77 participants completing the full program and placed in the online resource guide. The demand for the program has broadened and this year a Certificate for Child Welfare Professionals was added.

The Adoption program coordinators have also been active at the national level, presenting at conferences and helping to identify national adoption/foster competencies for therapists.

“This program wouldn't exist or be as strong and effective as it is but for the partnership that is behind it,” says Program Manager Marion Sharp. “I think we've pulled off an unprecedented feat by having a 10-year partnership with the Child Welfare Partnership, currently the Center for the Improvement of Services to Children and their Families, in the School of Social Work, with the Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center and with Oregon Department of Human Services, Adoption Program. This is an amazing and dedicated group of people and organizations who have supported this program from the beginning.”