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Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families - Program Courses

Click brochure below for current program dates 


  • (f2f/vs) - Class meets in person, but in-class activities may be viewed remotely via videostreaming.
  • (online) - Class is entirely online.
Course Oct Nov Jan Feb Mar Apr May
Overview of Adoption and Child Welfare Systems


Strengthening and Preserving Adoptive & Foster Families X
Clinical Practice with Adoptive and Foster Families X
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Other Drug Effects   X
The Impact of Abuse, Trauma, and Neglect on Child Neurodevelopment   X
Attachment and Bonding     X
Kinship, Cultural Connections, and the Ever-Changing Family        X
Promoting Positive Sexual Development Following Abuse          X
From Hyperarousal to Dissociative Disorders: Recognizing and Treating Childhood Trauma and its Impact on Adoptive and Foster Families      
Family-Based Therapeutic Strategies: Coaching Adoptive and Foster Families           X
Putting Adoption and Foster Care Therapy into Practice (2-day class)             X

** No classes during December.

How to access your online courses

Course Descriptions

Available for continuing education credits or graduate credit.

This flexible program is designed with the working professional in mind. Each course can be taken as a stand-alone workshop or online course, and the workshops are also video streamed for those unable to come to campus. Courses can now also be taken for graduate credit. Look for the credit option below. 

For mental health therapists, a full postgraduate certificate of completion can be earned by completing all workshops, online courses, and other program components. All courses are offered one time per year. Professionals can enter the program at any time during the year.  

See the Certificate Info link on the left for complete certificate requirements.

Training formats include face-to-face sessions held at Portland State University’s downtown Portland campus, and online courses using Desire2Learn (D2L). The face-to-face sessions are video streamed and accessible “live” or can be viewed later. See the Technical Requirements page for more information. Instructors are national, regional, and local experts in the fields of mental health, adoption, and foster care. See the Faculty page for instructor bios.

Workshops and courses

October Through a Child's Eyes: Overview of the Adoption and Child Welfare Systems (7 CEU hours)*
By its very nature, adoption involves a dynamic array of systems, including governmental, institutional, and legal bureaucracies. This session addresses the impact those systems have. Topics include Child Protective Services (CPS), juvenile court oversight of DHS and families, Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), sibling policy, permanency planning and the Oregon Safety Model. Learn about the placement stages: selecting families, adoption committees, transitioning children, finalization process, and post adoption services. Explore how DHS, therapists, and families can work together to assist in making placements successful. A dynamic panel shares the real impact of these processes on their families.

October workshop: Strengthening and Preserving Adoptive & Foster Families (7 CEU hours)*
This session examines the central elements of keeping adoptive/foster families together, including effective responses to families in crisis and de-escalating behavior problems. This training explores the factors that are most likely to create successes or cause challenges for children and their families. Some of these challenges include the impact of trauma, loss, and identity issues, and how these issues manifest over the course of a child’s development. It addresses interventions that promote family functioning, including using life storybooks in therapy and ways to enhance attachments in adoptive/foster families.

*October credit option: Overview of Adoption and Child Welfare Systems and Family Support Issues (1 credit)
Attend the two September workshops listed above and then complete the accompanying credit assignments.

October online course: Clinical Practice with Adoptive and Foster Families (10 CEU hours/1 credit)*
Adopted and foster children enter the family with a unique history, including their experience with and connection to their birth family, siblings, genetic background, and specific resiliencies. This class considers how adoption impacts all members of the family system throughout their lives. Adoptive parents go through a unique process in order to become parents, often without the support and sanctions that are available for biological parents. The adopted child has at least two families and thus may experience a chronic tension between belonging to one or to the other.

This class explores the core clinical issues: attachment and bonding, loss and grief, divided loyalties, identity, issues of control, and entitlement and gratitude. These core clinical issues are considered across the developmental stages. It introduces some therapeutic techniques for working with families and uses case vignettes to illustrate. Participants gain a fuller understanding of the importance of competent practice in working with families affected by adoption.

**Graduate credit option: complete all activitess for the online course and also the credit assignments

November workshop: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Other Drug Effects: Understanding and Applying a Brain-Based Approach for Adoptive and Foster Families (7 CEU hours)*
Linking brain function with behaviors provides a framework for professionals and parents to reframe the meaning of behaviors and develop skills to effectively support children, adolescents and adults with neurobehavioral challenges.  Abuse, neglect, and trauma impact a child’s brain and manifest in behavioral symptoms. Likewise, FASD and other alcohol/drug-related neurobehavioral conditions (FA/NB) affect brain structure and function, resulting in neurobehavioral characteristics that often affect relationships.  Primary and secondary behavioral symptoms and tertiary issues are connected to how children often accumulate numerous DSM diagnoses - often the greater the number of diagnoses, the greater the likelihood of underlying brain involvement. Case examples illustrate why good standard techniques may be ineffective, and what happens when neurobehavioral symptoms clash with widely held values and expectations. Participants practice applying a neurobehavioral, brain-based approach and develop skills for coaching families to develop accommodations for their child. Reframing leads to understanding and acceptance and this strengthens relationships and prevents problems.

November workshop: The Impact of Abuse, Trauma, and Neglect on Child Neurodevelopment (7 CEU hours)*
Exciting new brain research indicates that positive relationships can rewire and repair the damage from trauma, abuse, and alcohol/drug-related neurological disorders. Compare normal childhood development and its tasks with development clouded by abuse, neglect, and trauma. Learn about intervention strategies such as affect regulation, Circle of Security, sensory integration, early identification of neurodevelopmental profile risk, parent education on expected behavioral/developmental patterns, the role of psychopharmacological interventions, and, most importantly, the healing power of relationships. Identify specialized parenting skills to promote positive neurological progress.

*November credit section: Impacts of Alcohol, Drugs, Trauma, and Neglect on Child Neurodevelopment (1 credit)
Attend the two November workshops listed above and then complete the accompanying credit assignments.

January online course: Attachment and Bonding (10 CEU hours/1 credit)*
Attachment issues are endemic to children who have experienced abuse and neglect. This course presents attachment-oriented theory, addresses how to diagnose reactive attachment disorder (RAD), and explores the various interventions mental health professionals can offer to parents to facilitate their child's attachment. This course also describes children’s attachment styles and the experiences that may have colored those styles, including infant and international adoptions. Explore the issues of adult attachment difficulties and how they interface with the child's attachment style. Learn to think more carefully about some of the problems that are often misdiagnosed and therefore mistreated. Explore the concept of “normative crises,” the normal transitions in adopted and foster children’s lives that trigger old loss issues. Psychoeducation can help parents normalize behaviors, reduce symptoms, and promote attachment.

**Graduate credit option: complete all activites for the online course and also the credit assignments.

February online workshop: Kinship, Cultural Connections, and the Ever-Changing Family (10 CEU hours/1 credit)

Diversity is a major theme of adoption and foster care given the demographics of the children needing families and the ever- changing composition of families. Issues of belonging, identity and differences affect children and parents alike. Families vary in structure, composition, racial makeup and dynamics. Clinical practice and therapeutic strategies must be tailored to families in a manner that respect their unique composition and culture. This course presents a framework for individualizing practice with relative and kinship placements. Learn about the ever changing family, including gay, lesbian, single parent, transracial, and the dynamics that shape the family’s experiences. 

March workshop: Promoting Positive Sexual Development Following Abuse (7 CEU hours)* 
Many children who are adopted or in foster care have been sexually abused. This training explores the impact of sexual abuse on children throughout their development. The aftermath of sexual abuse affects the child but also has a significant impact on the adoptive or foster family. This training introduces research-based practices and interventions to assist families in facilitating positive sexual development following the aftermath of sexual abuse, including interventions for trauma-related behaviors, promoting positive sexual identification, and coaching parents to promote healthy relationships to increase well-being and minimize problem behaviors. 

March workshop: From Hyperarousal to Dissociative Disorders: Recognizing and Treating Childhood Trauma and its Impact on Adoptive and Foster Families (7 CEU hours)*
Trauma and traumatic stress can directly affect the development of affect regulation and empathy in children. In this class, learn to distinguish between the various trauma and dissociative disorders as listed in the DSM-IV and examine the effects of trauma on children. Understand the hyperarousal continuum and the dissociative continuum. Some of the important elements and goals of trauma treatment include de-condition harmful emotional responses and work to build a new internal self-view. This class builds on the previous Impact of Abuse class by continuing to explore the brain and trauma, including the hopeful new work in neuroplasticity. It includes extensive coverage of treatment approaches and coaching strategies for work with parents.

*March credit section: Promoting Positive Development Following Trauma, Dissociative Disorders, and Sexual Abuse (1 credit)
Attend the two March workshops listed above and then complete the accompanying credit assignments.

April online course: Family-Based Therapeutic Strategies: Coaching Adoptive and Foster Parents (10 CEU hours/1 credit)*
Often adopted and foster children exhibit behavioral challenges, learning disorders, and other special needs that defy traditional parenting techniques, tax educational and social services, and exact a toll on the child and family. This session provides a detailed framework for understanding significant behavioral problems and relationship difficulties in special-needs adoptions. Emphasis is placed on practical ways for mental health providers to consult with adoptive and foster parents on dealing with classic problems such as food issues/eating disorders, lying, stealing, bedwetting, encopresis, sleep problems, anger outbursts, fire setting, and parentified behavior. This session focuses on understanding behavior problems in the context of the child’s history of past exposure to maltreatment and to dysfunctional family roles. This session provides numerous case examples and illustrative interventions.

**Graduate credit option: complete all assignments for the online course and also the credit assignments.

May workshop: Putting Adoption and Foster Care Therapy into Practice (14 CEU hours)*
This two-day workshop provides best practices for professionals working with families raising children with many complicated issues. This class applies the concepts and skills learned throughout the program, including practical, yet flexible ways to integrate children into their new families. The overlapping themes between grief and trauma are addressed: hypervigilance, avoidance of loss, and anger and guilt. Develop home and school approaches that encourage children to flourish even after trauma and neglect. Participants learn protocols for family centered therapy for this specialty population, including the development and implementation of treatment plans. Adoptive and foster families need professionals who thoroughly prepare and support them – not just through the placement/adoption process but also as the family grows.

NOTE: Both Friday and Saturday must be completed together. It is also highly recommended that this class be taken face to face to increase the opportunities for practice discussions. However, it is available via video streaming.

*May credit section: Putting Adoption and Foster Care Therapy into Practice (1 credit)
Attend the two-day May workshop and then complete the accompanying credit assignments.