Category Archives: CuriousCoLab

Concept Paper

 

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Introduction

Investing one’s personal interest to explore the needs of a community promotes initiatives aimed at strengthening and empowering a community.  The Manatee County Adoption Advisory Board research team aims to address the challenges facing families who have adopted a child from the child welfare system through a community-engaged research approach.   A major implication of this approach is the promotion of collaboration and shared-power among the individuals serving on the community-research team. Building an adoption competent community ensures that the ongoing needs of adoptive families are met through the coordination of services and supports.

This ten-person research team is comprised of a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher, Breun Belcher, who brings over ten years of experience working in the child welfare system in various roles and has a strong knowledge base on adoption related issues, four adoptive parents, two former adoptive parents who each experienced an adoption dissolution, a teenage adoptee, and two adult adoptees.  Initially, the university-community relationship was established through the formation of the adoption advisory board and a subsequent needs assessment to determine the aims of a community research study.  Over the past year a strong partnership developed among the members of the research team.   As a result, a shared mission emerged which seeks to respond to the lack of post-adoption services while addressing the steady high rate of adoption dissolutions occurring over the last 24 months, in comparison to other counties across the state.  Each member of the research team has a personal or professional vested interest on the topic of adoption and voices a strong commitment to remain engaged in the university-community partnership.

Rationale

The North American Council of Adoptable Children (NACAC) and the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), have continuously advocated for post-adoption services in response to a strong association between a lack of post-adoption services and an increased likelihood of an adoption dissolution occurring or an adoptive child exhibiting severe mental health issues.  On February 4, 2015, the Supporting Adoptive Families Act was assigned to a congressional committee.  This bill seeks to enhance post-adoption support services further illustrating the significance of the proposed study.

Empirical literature exploring the needs of adoptive children and families, as well as the benefits of post-adoption services are not lacking.  Furthermore, the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies in New York State, estimates 68% of children adopted in the United States are from the public child welfare system.  Research examining outcomes in adulthood for individuals with a childhood history of foster care consistently supports the option of adoption over long-term foster care.  However, each year it is estimated that 1 to 2 percent of foster care adoptions experience dissolution, the termination of the legal finalization of an adoption.  This results in children having to return to the foster care system.  

In 2013, there were 65 dissolutions across the state of Florida.  Within a 22 month period, 12 percent of adoption dissolutions occurred in Manatee County.  In 55% of the dissolutions in Florida, violent behaviors or significant mental health concerns were cited as the reasons for dissolution and the majority of the children were 13 years or older. Currently, funding for post-adoption services in the state of Florida is limited to providing information & referral, educational materials & programs, mental health services through an adoption competent provider, and respite (Smith, 2014).  However, there is a lack of information regarding the extent and provision of these services in a specific county.  A meaningful approach and analysis determining the effectiveness of current services and support groups, gaps in services, and experiences within an adoptive family that lead up to a family requesting post-adoption services is warranted. The “Keeping the Promise” report indicates “Adoptive families have a continuum of service needs; – some face only a few challenges, but at least 40 percent will likely require therapeutic counseling services to understand and effectively address their children’s emotional and behavioral issues and to facilitate a positive family adjustment…Those whose children have the greatest challenges require more-intensive supports such as respite care and specialized adoption preservation services. Being able to receive services for as long as they are needed, rather than for a time-limited period, is linked with more positive outcomes” (Smith, 2014, p. 4) (Atkinson & Gonet, 2007; Gibbs, Siebenaler, & Barth, 2002).

The proposed study seeks to address the steady rate of adoption dissolutions that are occurring and assess the critical factors  that exist in the community and contribute to the rate of dissolutions.

Research Design

The proposed research design will engage in Participatory Action Research (PAR) to critically examine and reflect on the post-adoption service needs and concerns of adoptive children and families.  The active participation and collective, informed decision-making of all participants sharing equal power and control, throughout all aspects of the proposed study are noted strengths of a PAR approach to examining the issues facing adoptive families (MacDonald, 2012).   A mixed-methods methodological approach within a theoretical framework of case study will be utilized.  Data collection will include both qualitative and quantitative data through multiple sources: focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys.  Utilization of a convenience and purposive sampling approach to recruit adoptive parents, including relative and foster parents, former adoptive parents who experienced an adoption dissolution, and adoptees, 12 years and older, from the community to participate in the study.  Participants will receive a monetary gift card incentive of $25.00 as an appreciation for their time and commitment.

This proposed study is designed to address the following specific aims:

  1. Examine the extent to which gaps in adoption-compentent services for adoptive families exist in the community.
  2.  Examine the parenting experiences of adoptive families after finalization of adoption.
  3.  Examine the extent to which barriers exist in the community which negatively impact the coordination of effective services available to adoptive families.

Data collection will occur in stages over the course of a year.  Initially, the facilitation of a focus group with all individuals recruited to participant in the study will be completed.   The aim of focus group discussion will be on examining current gaps and barriers in post-adoption services within the community.  As well as to identify emerging issues the research team considers significant for future empirical examination.  All members of the research team will attend and actively participate in the data collection process and serve in the roles of moderator, co-facilitators or observers during the focus group.  The presence of all members of the Adoption Advisory Board research team during the focus group contributes to a feeling of mutual understanding among all individuals, given the shared adoption experiences of both the research team and study participants.  Therefore, increasing the likelihood of creating a forum of mutual engagement and open dialogue among all participants.   The research team will develop and utilize a semi-structured interview guide to facilitate the focus group discussion process.   Focus group participants who identify as a current or former adoptive parent will be invited to participate in an in-depth face-to- face interview that will be completed within 90 days following the focus group.   All members of the research team will serve in the role of interviewer to complete in-depth, face- to- face interviews with each consenting research participant.  Interviews aim to explore parenting experiences of an adoptive parent and are expected to last 1-2 hours.   Six months after the initiation of the community study, quantitative data collection will be achieved through an online REDCAP survey developed by the research team. The research team will contact the school board, local child welfare agency, and community mental health agencies to acquire agency staff and administrators’ email contact information.   The aim of the survey will be to explore current adoption competent community resources to inform the development and coordination of preventative services responsive to the expressed needs of adoptive families.

The ultimate outcome of the proposed study is the mobilization of an adoption competent community that is continually responsive to the various needs and challenges adoptive families face at any given moment.  Enhancing the lives of these individuals will equip them with the necessary tools and resources, therefore strengthening families’ and one’s ability to overcome unpredictable challenges.

References

Council on Family and Child Caring Agencies (October 2013). A white paper post adoption services. http://www.cofcca.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Post-Adoption.pdf

MacDonald, C. (2012). Understanding participatory action research: A qualitative research methodology option. Canadian Journal of Action Research, 13(2), 34-50.

Smith, S. L. (2014). Supporting and preserving adoptive families: Profiles of publicly funded post-adoption services. The Donaldson Adoption Institute. https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/xpanel/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/ASAP-State-Study-Final.pdf

Zeitlin, J. (July 28, 2014). She’s given up: When adoptions don’t work out. News-Press. http://www.newspress.com/story/news/local/2014/07/28/given-adoption/13252695/

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

Research Questions & Reflections

Goles and Hirschheim (2000) present an examination on the role of paradigms within scientific inquiry. The “quest for knowledge” through a scientific approach is described as a “convention related to societal norms, expectations, and values, which is used to engage in a search for understanding” (p. 251). Decisions on the specific tools and approach utilized should be informed by the subject matter.

The proposed study aims to explore the concerns and issues facing adoptive families after the adoption finalization utilizing a community-engaged approach, thus reflecting an epistemological view that “knowledge (truth) is a communal achievement. It is what the community agrees to bestow the label ‘knowledge’ or `truth’ upon. It is also not arbitrary as it is based on the accepted conventions of the time” (Goles & Hirschheim, 2000, p. 251).

Using the high standards and criteria established by Michael Sherraden in “Asking Questions Well: The Role of Theory in Applied Social Research” to critically assess the research questions guiding the proposed study reveals a number of strengths and some limitations. This assessment can further inform the decision-making process within each stage of the research process.

To begin, the research questions established for the proposed study are the following:

  1. Examine the extent to which gaps in adoption-competent services for adoptive families exist in the community.
  2.  Assess the parenting experiences of adoptive families after finalization of adoption.
  3.  Examine the extent to which barriers exist in the community, which negatively impact the coordination of effective services available to adoptive families.

An empirical examination asking the above research questions is vitally significant to addressing the challenges post-adoptive families face, potentially leading to an adoption dissolution, and the child returning to the child welfare system. Seeking answers to these questions will inform the development of interventions that specifically address the problems faced by post-adoptive families, and therefore benefiting the community as a whole.   The criteria to evaluate the research questions are below:

  • is simple, understandable, communicable and doable
  • is highly explanatory (ie has meaningful effects)
  • is adaptable to multiple forms in multiple situations, fitting a wide range of circumstances, people, institutions and conditions
  • can be framed in terms of core values in society
  • is ethical
  • is affordable
  • is politically within the realm of possibility
  • is subject to multiple tests
  • has benefits that exceed the costs of intervention
  • can be implemented by the average person or organization
  • To what extent does the research question and approach reflect the best practices of community-engaged research?

It is believed that the research questions communicate a clear understanding of the aims of the proposed study.  Furthermore, the issues facing the adoption community can be realistically addressed within the study.  It is worth noting that Question 2 aims to “assess” which has the potential to unintentionally imply a value judgment of an individual’s parenting ability. A recommendation is to revise the wording to “examine,” which is consistent with both Question 1 and 3. Taking steps to seek answers to the research questions informs a meaningful response to the currently high rate of adoption dissolutions in Manatee County, Florida. Children who are available for adoption through the child welfare system have experienced abuse and/or neglect. These childhood experiences shape the early foundation of a child’s life. The permanency of adoption offers many benefits throughout an individual’s life-course.  Both adoptive families and adoptees face challenges at various points throughout life.  Individuals lacking the necessary tools and resources to overcome these challenges can potentially experience additional negative consequences, impacting the adoptive family and society.  The US societal core value of Equality, “holds that all people must be treated fairly and with dignity and be able to embrace opportunities for education, economic success, political involvement, and a fulfilling life.”  The research questions demonstrate the core value of equality by directly responding to a high rate of adoption dissolution and the negative implications that result when children re-enter the child welfare system.  Utilizing a CEnR approach to answer the research questions adheres to the ethical values of respect for persons, beneficence, and justice.  Empowering individuals within the adoption community to collaborate and share in all decision-making within the research process demonstrates a respect for persons and an informed research plan that protects participants from experiencing harm related to the research study, while seeking justice.

In assessing the last five criteria, additional information is needed to determine the affordability of the proposed study and the costs to implementing a proposed intervention.  Engaging the adoption community to participate in a study has several potential costs related to compensation of participants, conducting a focus group in the community at a location that has the capacity to accommodate a large number of individuals, and the provision of monetary compensation to community researchers for their time-committment while conducting in-depth interviews and administering community surveys.  Given the lack of funding for post-adoption services across the US, continued advocacy and empirical examination are warranted to ensure the needs of adoptive families are not overlooked across communities.  A significant strength noted is the implementation of a mixed-methods approach to answer the research questions.  The proposed participatory action research research team will be comprised of  adoptive parents and adoptees possessing a wide variety of skills and knowledge related to conducting research.  Ensuring all individuals receive adequate training to conduct research demonstrates a study inclusive of individuals possessing basic research skills.  Finally, the proposed study fully reflects the best practices of CEnR through partnering with and the inclusion of representative members of the adoption community research team while ensuring the voice and perspectives of the adoption community guides the research process.

References

Goles, Tim, & Hirschheim, Rudy. (2000). The paradigm is dead, the paradigm is dead…long live the paradigm: The legacy of Burrell and Morgan. Omega, 28(3), 249-268.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

Sowing our seeds

 

With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The art of dissemination is a complex undertaking involving thoughtful considerations, creativity, and a clear understanding the targeted audience(s). Having a keen eye for a detail throughout the dissemination planning process ensures your audience is both engaged and at the table.

In the TEDx Talk, Verses and flow: The art of dissemination, Stacy Smallwood, approaches the discussion of dissemination metaphorically to describe the process as “scattering the seeds of what we have learned” and defining the concept as a “process by which we share our knowledge and information.” Throughout this semester, the incorporation of TED Talks has been an integral component of weekly blog posts to illustrate, inspire, and share additional information on a topic. Parallel to CEnR, the mission of TED is to “change and engage” and viewed by some as a pedagogical tool in the dissemination process (Sugimoto & Thelwall, 2013).

Romanelli, Cain, & McNamara, (2014) state in the article, Should TED Talks Be Teaching Us Something?, “TED Talks have given scientists and other researchers a real-time, mass media driven opportunity to disseminate their research, ideas, and theories that might otherwise have gone unnoticed” (p. 1). Additionally, the article provides a table to compare the use of TED Talks to traditional academic lectures.  Sugimoto & Thelwall, (2013) examined the impact of TED Talks and online videos, which indicated a larger impact on the public than on the scholarly community.   The utilization of this form of medium in a dissemination process can be a “highly useful platforms for science popularization” (p. 671).

Designing a CEnR dissemination plan is a collaborative process involving the solicitation of input from all members of the research team and all members actively participating throughout the planning stages. Stacy Smallwood’s TED Talk is an excellent tool to initially engage the members of the research team as they begin to develop an understanding of the dissemination process. The aim of the proposed Participatory Action Research is to initiate action and change. The findings and recommendations from this case study will inform a better understanding of the post-adoption issues and concerns facing families in the community.

Dissemination will occur through press releases and a scheduled community forum to discuss key findings. Through the sharing of individual perspectives captured within the study’s findings, new insights will emerge to inform the creation of an adoption competent community.  The Adoption Advisory Board will maintain an active advocacy role while continuing to spread the “voice of the community” to child welfare policy makers, community service agencies, and the local adoption community. The Adoption Advisory Board will partner with child welfare, mental health, education, foster parent association, and any other key agencies identified through the data collection process to collaborate with on the implementation of the study’s recommendations.  One potential obstacle is ensuring the findings reach adoptive families.  This can be impacted by the scheduling of the community forum and ensuring the time and place is conducive to the targeted audience being able to attend.  Another obstacle is not overlooking an organization or agency who share a similar interest or vision related to the findings or action plan.  This can be addressed through discussions with individuals and agencies to identify additional partners.

Evaluation of the dissemination will be incorporated with the research team through the ongoing reflective process which was established as a component of the study’s utilization of a PAR approach.   Additionally, engaging in conversations with community agencies and adoptive families will serve to solicit their feedback and evaluation of the dissemination process.

Below is an infographic example to be distributed electronically through Twitter and email announcements of the scheduled community forum.

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References

Romanelli, F., Cain, J. & McNamara, P. J. (2014). Should TED talks be teaching us something? American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 78 (6), 1-3.

Sugimoto, C. R. & Thelwall, M. (2013). Scholars on Soap Boxes: Science Communication and Dissemination in TED Videos. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64(4), 663-674.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

Community Roots

A man doesn't plant a tree for himself.-2

 

This final visual representation signifies through the collaboration of individuals seeking to examine and better understand a community problem using CEnR, the roots of a community are strengthened and the community will flourish.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

 

Data Collection & Analysis

The article, The Power and the Promise, provides several factors to consider when planning for the data analysis component of a community-university research project, which will inform the data collection and analysis components of this proposed study (Cashman et. al., 2008).  Below is a model to represent one aspect of the data collection process which will be completed in the current proposal.

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(Buettgen, Richardson, Beckham, Richardson, Ward, & Riemer, 2012)

Data Collection

The Adoption Community Advisory Board research team devised the data collection and analysis agenda for the proposed Participatory Action Research (PAR) design.  Data collection will include both qualitative and quantitative data collection. Given the wide variability of research experience and knowledge among the members of the research team, the University-based researcher will provide a two-day training on data collection and analysis to include topics on survey and interview-guide development, focus group facilitation and co-facilitation, interviewing skills, and debriefing techniques.   All data collection efforts will adhere to Virginia Commonwealth University’s IRB standards of research compliance. Data collection will not be initiated before IRB approval is received.

Data collection will occur in stages over the course of a year.  Initially, the  facilitation of a focus group with all individuals recruited to participant in the study will be completed.  Informed consent and assent for participants under 18 years of age will be required of all individuals before participating in the focus group. The focus group will be held at a local community recreation center which has the capacity to accommodate up to 250 individuals. The focus group will be scheduled in the evening and childcare will be provided free of charge by members of the local Foster Parent Association. Research participants requiring transportation assistance will be provided a complementary bus pass to attend the focus group. The aim of focus group discussion will be on examining current gaps and barriers in post-adoption services within the community. As well as to identify emerging issues the research team considers significant for future empirical examination. All members of the research team will attend and actively participate in the data collection process and serve in the roles of moderator, co-facilitators or observers during the focus group. The presence of all members of the Adoption Advisory Board research team during the focus group contributes to a feeling of mutual understanding among all individuals, given the shared adoption experiences of both the research team and study participants. Therefore, increasing the likelihood of creating a forum of mutual engagement and open dialogue among all participants. The research team will develop and utilize a semi-structured interview guide to facilitate the focus group discussion process. Note cards will be utilized to document and record all handwritten notes of the focus group discussion. Following the conclusion of the focus group, all members of the research team will debrief to discuss and record observations and reflections from the focus group. Additionally, the focus group will be audio-recorded to allow for future review of the discussion by the research team if needed and ensures accuracy of the data collected. The University-based researcher will not attend the focus group, however will be available in the building for guidance and assistance. Finally, focus group participants who identify as a current or former adoptive parent will be invited to participate in an in-depth face-to- face interview that will be completed within 90 days following the focus group.

All members of the research team will serve in the role of interviewer to complete in-depth, face- to- face interviews with each consenting research participant. Interviews aim to explore parenting experiences of an adoptive parent and are expected to last 1-2 hours. The interview will be completed at a mutually agreed upon location between interviewer and participant that is conducive to maintaining privacy and confidentiality.

Six months after the initiation of the community study, quantitative data collection will be achieved through an online REDCAP survey developed by the research team. The research team will contact the school board, local child welfare agency, and community mental health agency to acquire agency staff and administrators’ email contact information.   The aim of the survey will be to explore current adoption competent community resources to inform the development and coordination of preventative services responsive to the expressed needs of adoptive families.

Data Analysis

All data including audio recordings, hand written notes, interview guides, and surveys will be stored in a locked cabinet located in the university researcher’s personal office to ensure confidential safe keeping.  Data analysis will occur in stages over the course of the research project. All members of the research team will be actively engaged throughout data analysis providing insight and interpretation of findings through weekly face- to- face data analysis meetings. Coding and thematic analysis will be completed by hand on all qualitative data collected. This iterative and reflective group process will occur over several months. The research team recommends the University-based researcher complete quantitative data analysis using statistical software. Furthermore, discussion and interpretation of quantitative findings will be completed through scheduled face-to-face research team meetings. The University-based researcher will prepare and write up a report of all findings that the research team will review to provide feedback on.  Dissemination of findings will occur following group consensus and approval of the final draft.

 

 

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References

Buettgen, A., Richardson, J., Beckham, K., Richardson, K., Ward, M., & Riemer, M.  (2012).  We did it together:  a participatory action research study on poverty and disability.  Disability & Society, 27(5), 603-616.

Cashman, S., Adeky, S., Allen, A., Corburn, J., Israel, B., Montaño, J., . . . Eng, E. (2008). The power and the promise: Working with communities to analyze data, interpret findings, and get to outcomes. American Journal of Public Health, 98(8), 1407-17.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

The tangled web we weave….

 

tapestry-crochet-embroidery-floss

Before embarking on a journey of exploring and assessing the connectedness between myself and the #CuriousCoLab community, a stronger understanding of Social Network Analysis was needed.

This began with a “check-in” with TED! Not surprising, at least to me, TED came through (as always) with a talk by Tracey Rizzuto in “The Power of Invisible Threads,” where she stated, “relationships are threads that tie us together, these threads knit patterns that shape and unfold and influence our lives.” She then goes on to describe the phenomenon of invisible threads, which “connect us to people we have never met or places we have never been” and “tie us to a broader community tapestry.” She emphasizes that invisible power does not equate to being less powerful.

Viewing the TAGSExplorer is not visually appealing, a bunch of dots, um nodes, making up a very tangled, sphere-like shape, a somewhat painful reminder of how my daughter’s un-brushed hair looks. Moving on past that feeling, another thought that comes to mind is a feeling similar to looking up into the sky, at the community of stars that hang overhead. A vast community consisting of an endless number of stars and a personal reminder of how large the world can feel. Beyond those stars is something I do not ever expect to experience tangibly. Very much like earth, this tangled sphere of nodes is rotating, causing slight frustration, while trying to find one’s own node. Both Social Network Analysis and the stars in the sky, are a reminder that the world we live in is enormous, yet there are daily threads, both invisible and visible, connecting each one of us. The rotating sphere is representative of the very fact that these threads are not stationary or unchanging, yet changing shape and being woven in various directions every second of one’s day.

It is exciting to be a part of an emerging connected learning community, especially during my doctoral education pursuit, which is reflective of my commitment to lifelong learning. Incorporating a reflection on this aspect of our open-access summer course is vital to one’s understanding of engagement. The dots (nodes) are both figuratively and literally connecting, as I continue my personal engagement of learning. This uncharted territory took me beyond the traditional classroom setting and into a social media community of learning and engagement. However, the journey has only begun…

Reflecting on personal contributions made during the past 6 weeks has shown to be steady and moderate, a current summary showing 123 connections, 133 tweets, 49 replies, and 33 mentions. Some action steps for one seeking to grow their, and my own, personal learning network can include:

  1. A weekly review of “who to follow” within one’s Twitter feed, to regularly increase one’s total “following” count, and ensure someone significant has not been overlooked.
  2. Regular and consistent tweets can be an exercise in building rapport with current followers and can result in a “re-tweet” here and there.
  3. Re-tweets lead one to gaining more followers. You have to be “noticed” to be followed.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make personal connections, just because it is social media. Remember basic courtesies like “@__________, Thank you for adding me!”
  5. Finally, as you get to know your network and find a relevant article or something you know would be of interest to an individual in your network, share it. Why not? After all, it’s free! And most likely your gesture and contribution to their learning will be appreciated.Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.54.30 PM

Ennis & West (2012), discuss how social network analysis (SNA) can be utilized in a process of community development. Examining the connections between individuals informs both an internal and external focus on the community, the former acknowledging the strengths and resources, while the latter views the broader social structures. Social network analysis is strongly recommended for the adoption-competent community PARticipants to consider as a tool for critically analyzing the community and what barriers and gaps currently exist as well as what resources and assets are currently under utilized. Through the use of SNA significant contributions can be made within a community to empower individuals and organizations to dialogue and connect. Finally, through SNA changes in community relationships and structure can be measured, thus providing insight into whether specific aims of a community project were achieved (Ennis & West, 2012).

Reference

Ennis, G. & West, D. (2012). Using social network analysis in community development practice and research: a case study. Community Development Journal, 1-18.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

 

Post-Adopt Dataviz

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This visual presentation of post-adoption data was designed using Canva and was created for the purpose of a social media outlet such as an agency providing post-adoption services or to promote the need for funding of post-adoption services.  These figures are from the Adoption Fact Book V, published by the National Council for Adoption.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

The PAR-ticulars of designing an adoption-competent community

tree_hearts_love_wall_decal_decoration_sEngaging in Participatory Action Research (PAR) to critically examine and reflect on the post-adoption service needs and concerns of adoptive children and families’ residing in a specific community is both valuable and advantageous when comparing to other approaches. The active participation and collective, informed decision-making of all participants sharing equal power and control, throughout all aspects of the proposed study are noted strengths (MacDonald, 2012).   Therefore, an individual’s role in PAR is both a researcher designing and planning the study through dissemination and a participant contributing to the collection of data. The ultimate goal of both the current proposed study and PAR is the co-creation of knowledge, initiating an action that results in community change. This proposed study seeks to mobilize an adoption competent community that is continually responsive to the various needs and challenges adoptive families face at any given moment. Enhancing the lives of these individuals will equip them with the necessary tools and resources, therefore strengthening families’ and one’s ability to overcome unpredictable challenges.

PAR is a cyclical process involving research, reflection, and action. MacDonald (2012) stated there are three types of change involved when using PAR, “the development of critical consciousness of the researcher and the participants, improvement in the lives of those participating in the research process, and transformation of societal structures and relationships” (MacDonald, 2012, p. 38-39). This is reflective of four core values within the mission statement of the North American Council of Adoptable Children (NACAC).  NACAC recognizes the significance of empowering adoptive parents and youth to extend support to others in similar roles, as well as to advocate for child welfare reform. The recognition of connected communities encourages the promotion and support of adoptive families for foster children through a “supportive and informed” collaborative community. Finally, grassroots advocacy signifies improvements to child welfare policy and practice begins with the guidance and efforts of those who have personally experienced adoption.

The research team will be comprised of the Virginia Commonwealth University researcher, Breun Belcher, and community members representing adoptive parents and adoptees age 12 years and older including individuals who have experienced an adoption dissolution. The formation of an adoption advisory board and partnering with the university researcher serves as the initial foundation of the research partnership. The role of the university researcher will involve ongoing facilitation of the community-university collaboration and research process. Initial emphasis on the development of rapport and trust among all individuals is vital to build and maintain a strong collaborative research team.

Research design

The proposed research design will utilize the theoretical framework of case study using a mixed-methods methodological approach that includes both qualitative and quantitative data. Data collection will include longitudinal data, through multiple sources: focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys. This study will utilize a convenience and purposive sampling approach. Therefore, additional adoptive parents and adoptees from the community will be invited to participate in the study. Recruitment efforts will involve scheduled face-to-face informational meetings with administrators and staff members from local agencies such as child welfare and mental health, currently serving adoptive families, as well as local news and radio media and word of mouth. Inclusion criteria will include individuals who have legally finalized the adoption of a child previously involved in the child welfare system, including both relative and foster parent adoptions, individuals who have experienced an adoption dissolution, and youth, 12 years or older, and adult adoptees. Informed consent and assent for participants under 18 years of age will be required of all participants. Study participants will receive a monetary gift card incentive of $25.00 as an appreciation for their time and commitment.

Data collection

Initial data collection will be conducted through focus groups with participants and facilitated by the university researcher.   The aim of focus groups will be to examine current gaps and barriers in post-adoption services and emerging topics identified by the research team. Focus groups will be audio-recorded and later transcribed. In-depth, face- to- face interviews with each research participant, lasting 1-2 hours will be completed to explore parenting experiences of individuals. Interview questions will be a collaborative effort developed by the research teams. The utilization of qualitative methodology through in-depth interviews focuses on the “whole of human experience,” thus gaining a “broader understanding and deeper insight” (MacDonald, 2012, p. 34-35). Hutchinson & Lovell (2013) conducted a study with co-researchers and “service users” experiencing severe mental health issues through a PAR approach. Data collection consisted of a group interviews that did not include the lead researcher. Utilizing a group interview format informed peer support and emotional engagement throughout the interview process. Interviews will be audio-recorded and transcribed for data analysis. Quantitative data collection will be completed through the development of a survey by the research team that will be administered to individuals in the community including adoption professionals, agency staff, educators, and administrators to explore community service coordination.

Ethical Considerations

Study participants will be required to complete the CITI training on ethical considerations for human subject research. An additional training will be developed specific to the proposed study on designing a research study and the research process, data collection including interviewing techniques and survey development, and data analysis as it is expected individuals will have varying degrees of experience and knowledge of conducting research.   Training development will be an active collaborative effort of all individuals with the guidance of the university researcher. A final consideration is to recognize and address personal biases and interests of any participant that would negatively hinder collaborative efforts.

References

Hutchinson, A. & Lovell, A. (2013). Participatory action research: moving beyond the mental health ‘service user’ identity. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 20, 641-649.

MacDonald, C. (2012). Understanding participatory action research: A qualitative research methodology option. Canadian Journal of Action Research, 13(2), 34-50.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

Reflecting on PAR

Below is a link to the power point presentation on using PAR to examine post-adoption services as well as a listing of each individual slide.  A slide on critical decisions and questions to address before moving forward is included.  The youtube link of the People’s Report can be found at the bottom of the post.

 

PAR-Reflect

Slide01 Slide02 Slide03 Slide04 Slide05 Slide06 Slide07 Slide08 Slide09 Slide10 Slide11 Slide12

 

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

Elevator “wordle” pitch

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.52.51 PM

 

New avenues of creativity continue to be embraced this semester.  This week’s use of wordle to visually represent an elevator pitch was fun and  a great exercise.  Also, it can serve as a reflective tool to determine what edits are needed in the elevator pitch.   Reflecting on this wordle, there could be more focus on “community-engagement” in the elevator pitch, as those words do not jump out.  Wordle is a great visual tool that should definitely be included in one’s “tool box.”

The elevator pitch is below:

 

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW