Training for Adoption Competency (TAC)

About This Program

Target Population: Mental health clinicians and child welfare professionals working with adopted children and youth, birth families, and families formed through adoption

For organizations that serve children ages: 0 – 17

Program Overview

Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) is a manualized adoption-competency, clinical training program for licensed mental health professionals and child welfare professionals working with families formed through adoption, with children and youth frequently adopted from the foster care system. The training model features a 72-hour, 12-module training curriculum, six 90-minute monthly case consultation sessions, a robust trainer credentialing and support process, and ongoing multicomponent evaluation. TAC is a training model that is designed to produce changes in assessment and intervention practices. Ideally, these changes enable those trained in the program to apply trauma-informed, attachment-based skills to address core adoption issues such as loss, grief, understanding one's adoption story, identity formation, and search and reunion.

Program Goals

The goals of Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) are:

  • Learn the theoretical framework and therapeutic approach of adoption-competent mental health practice
  • Develop clinical assessment and intervention skills in working with birth families, children, and prospective adoption parents in planning for adoption
  • Develop clinical assessment and intervention skills in working with adopted children and youth and adoptive families on issues of loss, grief, separation, identity formation, and attachment
  • Develop clinical assessment and intervention skills in working with adopted children and youth and adoptive families on issues related to the impact of genetics and past experiences on adjustment and the psychological well-being of adopted children
  • Understand how trauma impacts adopted children and how to use tools and techniques to support recovery from adverse beginnings
  • Understand the issues that impact identity formation for adopted youth and young adults
  • Learn how to support adoptive parents in developing therapeutic strategies to use in response to their children's challenging behaviors
  • Learn the different types of adoptive families, developmental stages of adoptive families, and the process of adoptive family formation and integration; and develop skills to help families achieve appropriate adoption openness and ongoing connections
  • Develop an understanding of the racial, ethnic, and cultural issues in adoption and how to work with transracial and transcultural families
  • Identify and utilize evidence-based and evidence-informed practices and interventions with individuals affected by adoption

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Training for Adoption Competency (TAC).

Essential Components

The essential components of Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) include:

  • 12-module, 72-hour fully manualized training curriculum based on defined knowledge, beliefs, and skills competencies in 18 domains that were specified by a national advisory board of experts and consumers
    • Features materials that include for each module
      • An overview
      • Specific learning objectives
      • Pre-module assignments
      • Agenda
      • Reading lists
      • Handouts
      • Teaching script
    • Uses pedagogically sound instructional strategies with content aligned with PowerPoint presentation
  • Full-day fidelity observations are done and the number of modules observed varies by types of trainers:
    • A minimum of 8 out of 12 modules with new trainers
    • A minimum 3 out of 12 modules with experienced trainers
    • A minimum of 5 out of 12 modules with training teams that have one new and one experienced trainer
  • Final project is a culminating learning activity requiring participants to synthesize learning and apply it to a case involving one or more core issues of adoption using a case analysis protocol that involves the following:
    • Preparation of a genogram and ecomap
    • Assessment using appropriate methodologies
    • Brief summarization of mental health challenges and problems/issues related to adoption
    • Specification of treatment/intervention strategies used or planned and their goals
    • Identification of primary challenges/threats to treatment effectiveness
    • Identification of most relevant adoption clinical competencies
  • Following completion of the 12-modules, there are six monthly 90-minute case consultation sessions:
    • Conducted by Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) senior clinicians or clinical consultants
    • Designed to support the further integration of learning and strengthen the transfer of learning to practice
  • Trainer certification and support process that includes:
    • Selection of trainers meeting established qualifications
    • An initial week-long orientation
    • Postmodule debriefing calls involving review of participant and trainer feedback
    • Ongoing technical assistance
  • Designation of a replication site TAC quality assurance coordinator to assist in an ongoing external evaluation assessing training delivery, effectiveness, and outcomes using comparison groups that complete pretests and posttests
  • Frequent updating/refinement of curriculum, informed by systematic utilization of trainer and participant feedback and consultation with experts, to ensure the training reflects most current and relevant issues and resources

Program Delivery

Recommended Intensity:

There are 66 hours of in-person instruction through11 classroom-based training modules of 6 hours each that are taught monthly. There are 15 to 19 hours of independent study done through the combination of 1 module that is completed "at home" prior to the series of classroom-based modules and pre-session assignments for 9 of the 11 classroom-based training sessions that take an estimated 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. Then, after the 12-module curriculum is complete, there are six 90-minute clinical case consultations provided monthly via web-based video conferencing.

Recommended Duration:

18 months is typical but it can be delivered in few months, if necessary.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Other
  • Virtual (Online, Telephone, Video, Zoom, etc.)


Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) includes a homework component:

Training Module 1 on adoption history, law and process is completed "at home" taking an estimated 5-6 hours to complete. Nine modules have pre-session assignments requiring 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. Total estimated time for completion of homework: 15 to 19 hours

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Two trainers
  • Space for delivery of 6-hour module appropriate for size of particular cohort with some ability to reconfigure for small-group discussion
  • Computer, projector, and screen
  • Internet access
  • Instructor materials including teaching script and slides (accessed from the C.A.S.E. trainer website)
  • Student materials (accessed in advance from the C.A.S.E. student website)
  • Quality assurance coordinator to conduct fidelity observations and coordinate evaluation-related tasks at the replication site

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Once C.A.S.E. has selected an organization to become a TAC provider, the organization selects two to four trainers to be TAC trainers. C.A.S.E. expects that the selected TAC trainers will meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a Master's degree or higher in social work, counseling, or a related field
  • Be licensed in their professional field
  • Have at least 5 years of experience training child welfare and/or mental health staff (the training of other human service staff may be considered on a case-by-case basis)
  • As a team bring experience and expertise in both adoption/child welfare and mental health practice

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

The manual is available only to authorized training providers and enrolled TAC participants.

C.A.S.E. (July 2018). Training for adoption trainers manual. Published by Author. (Co-authored by Debbie Riley, Anne J. Atkinson, Madelyn Freundlich, and Patricia Gonet)

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Training provider organizations are given information on the roles and responsibilities of provider organizations and C.A.S.E., the trainer selection and implementation guidelines, and the comprehensive Evaluation Guide. Then qualified trainers, selected by training provider organizations, attend a weeklong initial orientation (40+ hrs. including evening homework/preparation) at C.A.S.E. in Maryland. Trainers are given the following materials during the training: Trainer Guide, teaching script, PowerPoint presentation and all TAC Participant materials which, for each module, include an overview, agenda, learning objectives, premodule assignments, reading lists, and all handouts.

C.A.S.E. will consider offering this training at/near the training provider organization when other sites send additional trainers to form a larger trainer cohort.

Number of days/hours:

5 days/40+ hours including evening homework/preparation. However, to be fully credentialed as a TAC trainer, the individual must:

  • Successfully deliver the full 12-module curriculum, during which time they are observed for 8 of 11 classroom-based sessions
  • Participate in debriefing calls after each module that involve review of student and trainer feedback and fidelity observation report

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) as listed below:

Organizations seeking to become TAC providers must submit an application addressing:

Organizational Capacity (counts 40 points in review):

  • Description of the organization [include mission, scope of work, size/budget, location(s) of office(s)]
  • The geographic area to be reached with TAC
  • Evidence of the capacity of the organization to partner with C.A.S.E. to become a provider of TAC including identifying other initiatives of this nature that the organization has implemented or collaborated on
  • The ability of the organization to enter into a contractual relationship with C.A.S.E. regarding the marketing and delivery of the TAC and participation in quality assurance activities
  • Existing/potential collaborative relationships that contribute to the organization's capacity to provide the TAC
  • Capacity to continue to provide the TAC beyond the initial training cohort

Implementation Plan (counts 40 points in review):

  • The reasons for selecting the TAC as the adoption competency training program to be offered in this community
  • Identification of the two or three trainers who will deliver the TAC
  • The organizational support to be provided to the trainers
  • Collaboration with C.A.S.E. regarding all marketing of the TAC to ensure consistent descriptions of the C.A.S.E.-developed TAC
  • Recruitment of clinicians to be trained
  • Target number of clinicians to be trained in first cohort; management of enrollment and logistics related to delivery of training
  • Delivery of the classroom-based training
  • Approach to ensuring quality-assurance-related tasks are performed [Detailed information on the quality assurance tasks is provided]
  • Coordination with C.A.S.E. regarding the delivery of the 6-month case consultation sessions
  • Collaboration with C.A.S.E. in identifying and addressing the strengths and challenges of the TAC for continuing implementation

Budget (counts 20 points in review)

The organization is expected to contribute:

  • Facility space for the training and case consultation
  • The costs associated with creating and maintaining the administrative structure for the TAC at the site
  • Marketing the TAC to prospective students
  • The costs associated with the trainers' salaries/fees for participating in the Trainer Orientation, preparation for and delivery of the TAC, and completion of quality assurance responsibilities
  • Travel costs associated with the Trainer Orientation Program which will be held in Burtonsville, Maryland. BWI airport is the closet to the C.A.S.E. offices. C.A.S.E will provide breakfast, lunch and one dinner. Organizations must send two trainers minimum and may send up to four trainers.

Applications are reviewed and scored using a standardized rating form keyed to the application requirements, then reviewers hold a conference call for discussion and final decision; additional information/clarifications may be requested prior to final determination. C.A.S.E. seeks organizations to provide TAC on a long-term, ongoing basis; strong relationships with statewide child welfare/adoption/mental health networks and successful experience in providing training/capacity building are highly valued. Applications to become a TAC provider organization are available upon request from the program representative (see bottom of the page for information).

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) as listed below:

Training organizations and trainers have ongoing access to technical assistance (TA)/support from C.A.S.E. TA related to training implementation is provided by the TAC Manager. TA related to ongoing evaluation/quality assurance is provided by PolicyWorks, Ltd. E-mails inquiries/requests are typically responded to within hours.

Trainers participate in debriefing calls with the TAC Manager and an evaluation associate throughout delivery of the curriculum. New trainers have calls after each module; experienced trainers have calls after every 2 or 3 modules, determined with individual replication sites. Postmodule debriefing calls are conducted with all trainers as long as they remain active trainers and are delivering the TAC curriculum which typically takes over 12 months to implement. The calls always include a review of trainee and trainer feedback collected following each module and may include review of the fidelity observation report, as appropriate. Trainers discuss their observations about the training session and have the opportunity to discuss and/or seek guidance regarding any concerns related to either curriculum content or instructional strategies.

When there are new resources available to trainers or news from C.A.S.E. regarding TAC, all trainers and their other organizational points of contact are sent e-mail notifications.

There are also periodic calls with executives of TAC provider organizations for discussion and strategizing around common implementation issues such as trainee recruitment and funding.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) as listed below:

Ten required Fidelity Observation Report forms, keyed to modules #2 through #11, are used as one measure of curriculum delivery. With new trainers, 8 of 10 modules are observed. With experienced trainers, at least 3 modules are observed. With teams of one experienced and one new trainer, 5 modules are observed. Observers follow the training script and compare the prescribed delivery to actual delivery, rating delivery (timing and completeness of delivery), and level of trainee engagement. Then they comment on any deviation or noteworthy event or condition (e.g., weather/traffic-related delay in starting; challenges with technology or timing).

Observers are selected by provider organizations and are typically the designated TAC quality assurance coordinators who are provided a web-based orientation typically lasting 1.5 to 2.0 hours and subsequent conference call/e-mail as needed.

The Fidelity Observation Report forms are standardized but module-specific. They were developed with advisory guidance from methodological experts. No psychometric evaluation has been conducted.

Module fidelity observation report forms can be obtained from: Anne J. Atkinson, PhD, PolicyWorks, Ltd. at

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) as listed below:

TAC, as a training model, is most frequently delivered by licensed partner organizations to audiences who are external to the sponsoring organization, although some also train members of their organization. There is a comprehensive guide that includes full descriptions of TAC training model and related requirements, roles and responsibilities of provider organizations and C.A.S.E., trainer selection and implementation guidelines; comprehensive Evaluation Guide. The primary organizational aspects that TAC Guide addresses are:

  • Trainer qualifications and responsibilities (minimum education and training experience)
  • Evaluation Design
  • Managing student adherence to policy and procedures
  • Designation of a quality assurance coordinator whose responsibilities for collecting data and using evaluation findings are specified
  • Sharing of "best practices" across training sites so that diverse sites learn from the experiences of others to ensure sustainability

Materials are available only to authorized training provider organizations and enrolled TAC participants. Training materials are password protected and accessed on the C.A.S.E. website.

Please contact the program representative for more information. Their contact information is at the bottom of this page.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Training for Adoption Competency (TAC).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Atkinson, A. J., & Riley, D. B. (2017). Training for Adoption Competency: Building a community of adoption-competent clinicians. Families in Society, 98(3), 235-242. doi:10.1606/1044-3894.2017.98.23

Type of Study: Nonequivalent control group design
Number of Participants: 900


  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — 80% White, 13% Black, 2% Asian, and 2% Multiracial
  • Gender — 89% Female and 11% Male
  • Status — Participants were social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study describes the effectiveness of the Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) model. Measures utilized include module-specific forms assessing fidelity of model, training effectiveness is assessed using a 34-item pretest and posttest based on curriculum content, and mid-training and end-of-training surveys assessing practice change and, the most important, learning. Training effectiveness results were compared to results from a comparison group of clinicians with similar professional qualifications and years of experience. Results indicated that TAC incorporated the principles of competency-based learning and was delivered with fidelity across training sites and cohorts. TAC was rated highly for quality and relevance by a broad range of professionals across multiple, diverse sites. Results show that TAC participants significantly improved their knowledge of the curriculum from preintervention to postintervention, when compared to a control group. Limitations include nonrandomization of participants, the use of a comparison group for only one outcome (training effectiveness), and the use of retrospective self-report ratings of pretraining and posttraining adoption competency.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Atkinson, A. J. & Riley, D. B. (2017). Training for adoption competency: Building a community of adoption-competent clinicians. Families in Society, 98(3), 233-256. doi:10.1606/1044-3894.2017.98.23

Atkinson, A. J., Gonet, P. A., Freundlich, M., & Riley, D. B. (2013). Adoption competent clinical practice: Defining its meaning and development. Adoption Quarterly, 16(3-4), 156-174. doi:10.1080/10926755.2013.844215

Brodzinsky, D. L. (2013). A need to know: Enhancing adoption competence among mental health professionals. New York, NY: Donaldson Adoption Institute.

Contact Information

Debbie B. Riley, LCMFT, CEO
Agency/Affiliation: Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.)
Phone: (301) 476-8525

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: September 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: May 2019

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2019