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Conclusions from Cultivate: Community Needs Assessment

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

We had the great privilege in 2021 of being one of six “emerging nonprofits” to be chosen to participate in the CULTIVATE program with Next Stage Consulting. The program is designed to help leaders of small but growing nonprofit leaders develop their ability to build effective nonprofits across six capacities – leadership & strategy, management, program development, human resources, financial resources, and operations & planning. Now that we are successful CULTIVATE graduates and our final business plan is developed, we will do a series of blog posts to share with you what came out of the program. We hope that you will be as proud of it as we are and that you will feel excited to engage with us to move ASA into the future we envision.

In the establishment of any organization, but especially in the world of nonprofits, it is important to consider the nonprofit landscape that already exists to ensure that the mission your organization will work towards is one that is needed and not already served by another organization. In other words, in our community needs assessment, we answer the questions- Are we necessary? Are their others already doing this work? Will we be filing a gap in services to adoptive families?

Adoption is a fairly common but underexamined social, emotion and legal process in which children who will not be raised by their birth parents become full and permanent legal members of another family. One out of every 25 U.S. families with children have an adopted child.

Nearly half of all children, particularly teens, have struggled with mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Children who are adopted may be at even higher risk. As a result, adoptive families use clinical services at triple the rate reported by families formed at birth.

Unfortunately, adoptive parents, adopted individuals (as children and adults) and birth relatives often encounter significant barriers in their efforts to obtain the assistance they seek and need.

Center for Adoption Supper and Education

Access to Mental Health Care

One of the most frequent complaints from adoptive families is the inability to find mental health care and ancillary service professionals who are adoption-competent – professionals who understand the unique issues associated with the histories and current lives of adoptees and adoptive families and who understand how adoption can color or even shape views of identities and relationships.

According to David M. Brodzinsky, Ph.D. from the Donaldson Adoption Institute, graduate education in relevant fields does not usually include the topic of adoption. A survey of directors of clinical training programs in marriage and family therapy, social work or counseling found only about 5 to 16 percent offered adoption-specific coursework. Two thirds of licensed psychologists in a national survey reported no such graduate coursework; fewer than one-third rated themselves as well or very well prepared to treat adoption issues, and 90 percent said psychologists need more adoption education.

It is not always clear or easy to determine which practitioners are adoption-competent, in part because adoption counseling has not yet been identified as a professional specialty in the healthcare fields, with clear guidelines for training, practice and credentialing. Without an appropriate process, many individuals and families will continue to be treated by professionals who are inadequately prepared to understand and help them.

Continuum of Supports

An analogy often used by ASA to differentiate our services is this: There are many important and valuable providers who assist with the critical role of the wedding that is necessary to formalize an adoption- the match, the placement, the one-time legal process of adoption. However, what is missing are organizations to support the marriage that is the lifelong journey of adoption- the lifelong commitment that parents make to a child and the inevitable grief and loss that is a part of the experience, the education necessary to feel empowered to make decisions that positively impact the adoptive family. Adoption Support Alliance was established to support the marriage.

Research published by the Donaldson Adoption Institute recommends the development of “an array of specialized adoption support and preservation services”. Subsequently, a 2019 publication by the Rudd Adoption Research Program at University of Massachusetts at Amherst states “access to adoption competent mental health services is a critical factor in promoting positive outcomes for adoptive families.” This research, from highly respected entities in the adoption field, points to a gap in the continuum of services for adoptive families.

Supports in North Carolina

There are many informative, online, adoption education providers. However, these organizations do not offer face-to-face relationships with families nor are they able to offer the kind of local knowledge that ASA provides. ASA is uniquely positioned to engage in genuine relationships with adoptive families in a way that is difficult to do online.

In North Carolina, there are 40 licensed child placing agencies that serve the state, ten of which are based in Mecklenburg County. These organizations offer a crucial service in the adoption process, matching a child in need of a family with an adoptive family desiring a child. However, these organizations are not able to provide long-term care of those families.

In supporting the adoptive family’s “marriage,” ASA offers services that are very unique in this region. The organization’s personal relationships with adoptive families, a commitment to their well-being and a desire to build a thriving adoption community in the long-term sets ASA apart from other nonprofits in the Charlotte region.

It is our deep desire that the circles of support you find at ASA are unique and fulfill needs for your family that you find it difficult to meet elsewhere. If you are interested in sharing your story of how ASA has positively affected your family, reach out to Erin Bost, our operations manager, to learn about our upcoming peer-to-peer campaign. If you continue to struggle to find services to meet your needs, let us know. As an emerging non-profit, we are very open to input from our community about what is needed to fill gaps for adoptive families. Email us at and let us know how we can help.


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