Social work research to investigate mindfulness for adoptive and fostering families

becky orsi and karen barrett sitting in a hallway on campus
Social work Research Scientist Becky Orsi and human development and family studies Professor Karen Barrett are collaborating on an intervention for adoptive families of children who have experienced trauma.

As an adoptive parent herself, Research Scientist Becky Orsi appreciates mindfulness as a skill to meet the particular needs of adoptive parents and their children. She’s working to develop an intervention for families adopting children who have experienced trauma.

“What we’re investigating is a solution that is not about going to see a therapist, but instead about connecting adoptive families with fellow parents who can relate and provide support, in a non-threatening way, with very practical skills,” Orsi said.

Social work research collaboration with human development and family studies faculty

Along with principal investigator Karen Barrett, professor in Human Development and Family Studies and the Colorado School of Public Health, Orsi is an awardee of a pilot grant from the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute to conduct this research.

“Our goal is to listen to parents so we can better understand families’ experiences and needs. We are using both qualitative and quantitative methods to more fully integrate unique experiences and commonalities,” said Barrett.

Kim Penney of Lutheran Family Services is serving as the community partner principal investigator. Her agency serves families adopting children out of foster care and fostering unaccompanied refugee children. Graduate research assistant Anastasia Ratcliff assists with coordination.

Mindfulness for meeting challenges of fostering and adoption

The researchers will interact with adoptive families and long-term fostering families through focus groups to learn about their experiences, including unfulfilled support and training needs. The study will also include quantitative assessments of adoptive parents’ perceived stress and children’s behavior.

One innovative piece is the plan to incorporate mindfulness-based training into a trauma-informed parent program, to provide tools to better regulate emotion in themselves and to support their children in regulating their emotions too. This fits into the larger goal of giving adoptive parents an opportunity to approach the challenges of fostering and adopting with a mechanism of ongoing support.

Social Work Research Center logoDr. Becky Orsi is a staff member of the Social Work Research Center within the School of Social Work, which is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.