Amara recently received a 2-year, $250,000 grant from King County Best Starts for Kids. The award will allow us to test and evaluate our Inclusive Family Support Model (IFSM), the country’s first practice model specifically designed to support adoptive families in creating more open relationships with their children’s biological families.

This groundbreaking model was conceptualized by Angela Tucker, herself an adoptee, national thought leader on adoption, and Amara’s Post-Adoption Program Director. Lori Holden’s book “The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption,” offered Tucker her first glimpse at how to build this model which is built upon the premise that keeping adoptees connected to their biological family will improve their overall wellbeing.  Astonishingly, there is no standard practice for social workers to help families navigate these complex relationships. In July 2019, Angela and lead author JaeRan Kim an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Korean American adoptee, published this theoretical model in The Journal of Child & Family.  This grant will allow Tucker and her team to implement and evaluate this model with a vision to scale it nationwide.

“It is possible for adoptees to have open relationships with their biological family members even if they are deceased, unknown or unsafe. This is a revolutionary idea and if adoptive parents trust our methods, the overall wellbeing of adoptees could really improve.” said Angela Tucker. 

This project also connects adoptive parents and supports the development and maintenance of their own community, working to eliminate Amara’s role as intermediary between birth families and adoptive families. Adoptive parents will have the opportunity to meet together for a 7-week course to discuss the complexities of adoption and build relationships. 

Kimberly Walker, Best Starts for Kids Program Manager shared, “It is apparent that Amara offers years of experience in understanding families who have accessed adoption services. As new Best Starts partners, Amara will work with youth who have been adopted, birth/first parents and families of adopted youth and adoptive parents/families to provide positive connections. We believe the families they will serve will greatly benefit from the opportunity to strengthen their family bonds.”

The model has the potential to be lifesaving as well. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2013),”…the odds of a reported suicide attempt were four times greater in adoptees compared with non-adoptees.”  Youth who are adopted often experience an ambiguous loss – a feeling of grief or distress combined with confusion about the lost person or relationship.  Unconscious or repressed memories and experiences with their birth/first families without integration can lead to a profound sense of loss for adoptees.  

The Inclusive Family Support Model was borne from the local adoptive parent community who requested more support and guidance around navigating complex relationships between their children and their birth/first families. In response, Amara conducted a survey, held community forums and monthly consultations with an advisory team, researched programs in other local and national organizations, and facilitated an alumni community meeting to hear directly from the adoptive community.  One comment from the survey summed up exactly why the Inclusive Family Support Model was needed: “My daughter is now a teenager and is interested in reconnecting with her birth parents. We could use help figuring out how to approach this.”

Watch Angela Tucker Discuss the IFSM model: