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Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families Certificate of Completion

It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of the new website for PSU's Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families certificate program. There are many exciting changes coming up, so be sure to check this out right away!

To apply to the new program, use the application form on the new website.

Upon review of the Graduate School of Education (GSE) curriculum and faculty resources, GSE is currently reorganizing and making programmatic changes for the 2016-2017 academic year. As part of those changes the Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families Certificate of Completion Program will be shifting from GSE to the Child Welfare Partnership within the PSU School of Social work. Our departments have worked in partnership since 2002 to develop and implement this program, along with the Oregon Dept. of Human Services and Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center.

The GSE will stop offering these courses by the end of spring term 2016. We would like to notify all previous and current students that courses will run in their current format through spring term 2016. Anyone wanting to complete the certificate option through GSE will need to complete all remaining courses by spring 2016. Students interested in taking some courses (but not receive the certificate) may continue to register for courses as long as they are offered. If you have questions about your individual status with completing the certificate, or with this curriculum change, please contact Marion Sharp at

We continue to believe in the importance and viability of this coursework for our students and community members and are glad to help our students transition to the Child Welfare Partnership. Please note that any coursework completed through GSE will be accepted as part of the new Adoptive & Foster Family Therapy Certificate of Completion which is anticipated to begin in September of 2016 at the Child Welfare Partnership. If you have specific questions about the transition, please contact or

U.P.C.E.A 2013 Outstanding Program Award
Children's Bureau 2013 Adoption Excellence Award

Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families brochure cover

Enhance your practice
The Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families program provides a clinically oriented adoption therapy training. Designed for maximum accessibility, this human service distance ed program is for professionals working with foster parents, counseling adopted children and their families, and child welfare and adoption professionals working with individuals adopted from county and state systems.

Advanced opportunities
Whether you are looking for counselor professional development, social work training, adoption counselor resources, or CEUs, the Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families program provides an in-depth series that can be taken individually or compiled into an adoption counseling certificate. The courses focus on the specialized theories and practices for treating children who have histories of abuse, trauma, and neglect; for strengthening their family systems; and for enhancing resiliencies.

Professional recognition
Portland State University awards CEUs for this postgraduate training certificate and publishes a directory (PDF) of individuals who have successfully completed the certificate. The program has been expanded to include a focus on foster children and families. For mental health therapists, a full postgraduate certificate can be earned by completing all courses and program components. And there is now a post-certificate consultation group.

Flexible format – on campus or online
This training is now even easier to access! Each course is offered face to face on campus or online for both mental health and child welfare professionals. We video stream the face-to-face workshops. See the Technical Requirements for more information.

A postgraduate, evidence-based program
The objectives for this program are to:

  • Increase accessible and affordable mental health support for adopted/foster children and their families, with mental health professionals competent in utilizing evidence-based treatment strategies for the emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues of children with histories of child abuse, trauma, and neglect
  • Increase the mental health proficiency of child welfare workers to better support the children and families in their caseloads
  • Reduce the risk of adoptive, foster, kinship, and guardianship family dissolution

Mental health therapists
The series provides mental health professionals with the therapeutic skills necessary to:

  • Identify and enhance adoptive and foster care families’ strengths and resiliencies to support their children
  • Treat the mental health issues of children with histories of child abuse, trauma, and neglect
  • Guide adoptive and foster families in developing alternate approaches, expectations, and interactive strategies for helping their children develop and thrive
  • Provide accessible mental health services to adoptive and foster families throughout Oregon

Child welfare professionals
The significant role of the child welfare professional in supporting the success of the child and the family is well recognized. This training series provides child welfare professionals with the advanced training necessary to:

  • Recognize and encourage adoptive and foster care families’ strengths and resiliencies to support their children
  • Recognize the emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues of children with histories of child abuse, trauma, and neglect
  • Support adoptive and foster families in developing alternate approaches, realistic expectations, and strategies for helping their children develop and thrive
  • Improve skills to prepare and select families for parenting children recovering from abuse, trauma, and neglect

Adoption Training Certificate Directory

Oregon directory: Mental health professionals who earn the certificate are part of a core group of clinicians who are available to serve adoptive and foster families throughout Oregon. A directory of mental health professionals who have completed this training is available from Oregon’s Department of Human Services, the Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center (ORPARC), Oregon licensed private adoption agencies, and this website. See the Directory of Therapists (PDF) for more information.

General Information

Families who adopt or become foster families face unique issues beyond those of biological families. Children adopted or placed from the public child welfare system bring additional complexity, potentially having histories of abuse, medical and behavioral problems, and adjustment and attachment disorders. These children's special needs frequently place additional stress on the family system, especially when they are manifested in challenging behaviors and childhood disorders. The need for supporting families is significant. As of July 6, 2015, adoptive families were receiving adoption assistance on behalf of 11,168 Oregon children. Guardians were receiving guardianship assistance on behalf of 1,485 children. In addition, there were 7,811 children in foster care on any given day in 2014. Oregon nonetheless continues to succeed in finding adoptive homes for these children.

Ironically, due to Oregon's success in increasing special needs adoptions, demand for adoption-specific mental health services far exceeds supply. In a recent survey of their needs, Oregon's adoptive families ranked as a top priority mental health support from clinicians with the skills and knowledge necessary to treat the unique issues facing adopted children. Nonetheless, too often Oregon's adoptive families report that they spend a great deal of time—frequently at their own expense–educating mental health professionals about the differences between parenting adopted and biological children. Adoption professionals corroborate the lack of adoption-competent mental health professionals.

Affordability of mental health care further limits the pool of mental health resources for adoptive families. 99% of children adopted through DHS receive adoption assistance benefits that include an Oregon Health Plan (OHP) medical card.

Foster families are in a similar difficult situation.

Without the necessary therapeutic supports to help adoptive and foster families get through the unique challenges of raising a child with special needs related to earlier abuse, neglect, or trauma, families face an increased risk of dissolution. Adopted children whose placements have "failed" return to the foster care system at the dual expense of their sense of self-worth and public funds.

For this reason, Portland State University's School of Education/Continuing Education joined with PSU's School of Social Work Child Welfare Partnership, the Oregon Department of Human Services, and the Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center (a program of Northwest Resource Associates) to create the statewide Postgraduate Training Certificate in Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families. The objectives of this program are to increase accessible, affordable, adoption-competent and foster-competent mental health support for children and their families throughout Oregon and to reduce the risk of adoptive or foster family dissolution.

What is a Certificate of Completion?

This certificate of completion can be taken as noncredit or credit. To learn more about the types of certificate of completion available, click here.


This program is sponsored by:

Advisory committee

  • Marion Sharp, Graduate School of Education/Continuing Education
  • Kellie Herold, Child Welfare Partnership/School of Social Work
  • Toni Ferguson, Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center
  • Marty Lowry, Training Director, CWP/School of Social Work
  • Kris Villanueva, Past Participant/Certificate Holder
  • Kathy Prouty, Adoption Program Manager, OR Department of Human Services