A grounded theory is presented of the decision-making processes among applicants when considering available children with and without disabilities for domestic public adoption. Using grounded theory methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), data from 15 adoption applicants were analyzed followed the traditional three coding phases. The central category of Adoption Decision Making is labeled Gaining Balance and was the underpinning concept to all categories and sub-categories (i.e., in parentheses) of the theory: Commitment (e.g., motivation, financial considerations), Persistence (e.g., coping with emotions, counteracting pessimism), and Evaluation (e.g., assessments of personal abilities and resources, assessments of knowledge of potential adoptees' needs). The results are compared to existing literature and implications for child welfare practices and further research are discussed.


Child Adoption, Decision Making, Child Welfare, Children, Motivation, Grounded Theory, Qualitative Research, and Disability


The authors wish to thank a number of people: Julie Corbin for comments early on regarding grounded theory as an approach to the exploration of the decision-making processes of adoption applicants; our colleagues, Nancy Hutchinson and Patricia Minnes, for their advice on methodological and editorial issues; and Caroline Cardoso for her transcription services. We also appreciated the support of the executive directors, supervisors of adoption services, and the numerous adoption workers at the participating child welfare agencies who provided advice and helped us with participant recruitment. Finally, we offer a special thank you to the many people who shared their experiences as adoption applicants which provided the basis for this study.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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