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Elissa Madden - Baylor University . Waco, TX, US

Elissa Madden Elissa Madden

Associate Professor | Baylor University

Waco, TX, UNITED STATES

Research: child welfare, foster care, adoption (public & private), child & family mental health, service learning in social work education

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Biography

Elissa Madden, Ph.D., associate professor, joined the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work in August 2016 after previously serving as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her primary research interest is in child welfare, with a particular focus on ways to promote permanency for children in foster care.

Dr. Madden is a former child welfare conservatorship worker with Child Protective Services (CPS) in Texas. She is a licensed social worker and has extensive experience working with children and families in a variety of practice settings. Prior to working at CPS, she served as a project director for a transitional housing program and as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) social worker at a local hospital.

Dr. Madden has co-authored publications regarding the need to increase adoptions from the public child welfare system and child welfare workforce issues and has presented numerous times at national child welfare and social work conferences regarding various child welfare topics, including post adoption services, the retention of child welfare workers, wraparound child welfare services, and openness in adoption. Additionally, Dr. Madden currently serves as the Assistant Editor of Adoption Quarterly, a peer-reviewed international, multidisciplinary journal that addresses continuity in adoption issues.

Dr. Madden was awarded a grant through the Donaldson Adoption Institute to complete a study to better understand the decision-making experiences of women and men who have placed a child for adoption, as well as the context in which options are discussed with expectant mothers and fathers by professionals in the adoption community.

Industry Expertise (4)

Education/Learning Research Social Services Childcare

Areas of Expertise (8)

Service Learning Adoption Research Child and Family Services Foster Care and Adoptions Child Welfare Adoption Services Mental Health Social Work Education

Education (3)

The University of Texas at Austin: Ph.D., Social Work

Baylor University: M.S.W., Social Work

Baylor University: B.A., Social Work

Media Appearances (6)

Research Explores Long-term Attitudes of Birth Mothers Who Place A Child for Adoption

Texas Standard  radio

2018-06-14

A recent study from Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work finds that birth mothers who place their child for adoption are typically less satisfied with their decision over time. Elissa Madden, Ph.D., associate professor, led a research team that surveyed more than 200 birth mothers. She said birth mothers who often struggled the most with this decision were those who had higher incomes and had attained higher levels of educational . “And so one possible reason we think that might be is because as these mothers accomplish different things in their life and as they pass through different milestones, they may sort of feel that they’ve done so at the expense of the ability to raise their child,” Madden said.

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Landmark Donaldson Adoption Institute Study Reveals Financial Difficulties, Social Pressures and Lack of Support – All Factors in Decision-Making for Expectant Mothers

San Francisco Chronicle  print

2017-03-09

The second phase of a study led by Elissa Madden, Ph.D., assistant professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work – “Understanding Options Counseling Experiences in Adoption: A Qualitative Analysis of First/Birth Parents and Professionals” – which explores the decision-making experiences of women who relinquished their parental rights to adoption and the context in which options are discussed with expectant parents by adoption professionals.

Baylor research sparks calls for change in adoption counseling

The Baptist Standard  online

2017-03-09

A new study by a Baylor University researcher gives voice to women who have placed a child for adoption and suggests changes to the options counseling process and policies that guide agencies and other adoption professionals. “We wanted to make sure that we would be able to capture different perspectives — birth mothers who have lived this experience as well as adoption professionals who work with expectant parents each day and understand that side of the process,” said lead author Elissa Madden, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

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Baylor Professor’s Research Sparks Calls for Change in Adoption, Options Counseling Process

Creating A Family  online

2017-03-10

A new study by a Baylor University researcher gives voice to women who have placed a child for adoption and suggests changes to the options counseling process and policies that guide agencies and other adoption professionals. “We wanted to make sure that we would be able to capture different perspectives — birth mothers who have lived this experience as well as adoption professionals who work with expectant parents each day and understand that side of the process,” said lead author Elissa Madden, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

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Landmark Donaldson Adoption Institute Study Reveals Financial Difficulties, Social Pressures and Lack of Support – All Factors in Decision-Making for Expectant Mothers

San Antonio Express-News  print

2017-03-09

The second phase of a study led by Elissa Madden, Ph.D., assistant professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work – “Understanding Options Counseling Experiences in Adoption: A Qualitative Analysis of First/Birth Parents and Professionals” – which explores the decision-making experiences of women who relinquished their parental rights to adoption and the context in which options are discussed with expectant parents by adoption professionals. Chandler Gobin, master’s candidate in social work at Baylor, also contributed to the study.

Social Work Research Sparks Calls for Change in Adoption, Options Counseling Process

Social Work Helper  online

2017-03-09

A new study by a Baylor University researcher gives voice to women who have placed a child for adoption and suggests changes to the options counseling process and policies that guide agencies and other adoption professionals. “We wanted to make sure that we would be able to capture different perspectives — birth mothers who have lived this experience as well as adoption professionals who work with expectant parents each day and understand that side of the process,” said lead author Elissa Madden, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

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Articles (6)

The Relationship Between Time and Birth Mother Satisfaction With Relinquishment Families in Society

Elissa E. Madden, Scott Ryan, Donna M. Aguiniga, Michael Killian, Brenda Romanchik

2018-04-30

Using data from an online survey of 223 birth mothers who had relinquished an infant for adoption during the last 25 years, this analysis examines the influence of the length of time that has passed since relinquishment on birth mothers’ satisfaction with their decision to place their child for adoption. Time since relinquishment, age of the respondent, education level, and income had a significant inverse relationship with birth mothers’ satisfaction to place their child for adoption. Two variables were predictive of increased satisfaction with their decision: having current contact with the child and full-time employment. The findings underscore the importance of agencies and adoption professionals ensuring that birth mothers have access to ongoing postrelinquishment support services throughout the life course.

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Living on the edge: The postsecondary journeys of foster care alumni College Student Affairs Journal

Tobolowsky, B., Madden, E. E., & Scannapieco, M.

2017-01-01

Foster care alumni (i.e., individuals who must exit care upon reaching a designated age – 18, 20, or 21, depending on the state) are one of the most educationally vulnerable populations in the U.S. (Zetlin et al., 2004) with only 7-13% of foster care alumni enrolling in higher education and even fewer graduating (Casey Family Programs, 2010). The researchers interviewed 12 foster care alumni who are or were enrolled in higher education to better understand their college experiences. The study found that these students may flounder because of social deficits from their time in care, making student affairs personnel particularly critical to their success. However, too often, campus staff provided little to no support, because they were unfamiliar with these students' unique needs and/or benefits (e.g., tuition waivers). Key implications for practice include providing training to staff who interact with these students to reduce their feelings of stigma as well as offering peer mentors to assist them through their educational journeys.

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Exploratory factorial analysis and reliability of the Child Welfare Trauma-Informed Individual Assessment Tool Journal of Public Child Welfare

Madden, E. E., Scannapieco, M., Killian, M., & Adorno, G.

2016-09-29

This article presents the development and psychometric analysis of the Child Welfare Trauma-Informed Individual Assessment Tool, an instrument designed to measure the extent to which child welfare service providers employ trauma-informed practices with the children and families that they serve. Using the responses of 213 front-line child welfare workers, exploratory factor analysis was used on a seventeen-item scale, resulting in a four-factor model. Based on the results of this analysis, implications for potential uses of the instrument are discussed, and specifications for additional evaluation of the measure's validity are outlined.

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The impact of formal and informal respite care on foster and adoptive parents caring for children involved in the child welfare system Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

Madden, E. E., McRoy, R. G., Chanmugam, A., Kaufman, L., Ledesma, K., & Martin-Hushman, D.

2016-05-01

This paper reports the results of a quantitative 42-item survey that explored foster, adoptive, and kinship parents’ (N = 160) utilization of different types of respite services (formal, informal, and a mixture of formal and informal), as well as their impressions of the impact of respite care on aspects of their lives related to family cohesion and stability, caring for their children, and their personal wellbeing. An exploratory cross-sectional, survey design was used to assess both the formal and informal respite care experiences of the foster, adoptive, and kinship caregivers. Two-tailed Fisher’s exact tests were used to examine the relationship between the type of respite received and caregivers’ respite experiences. Findings indicated that parent experiences differed depending on the type of respite services they received. Specifically, parents who used a mixture of formal and informal respite reported positive experiences related to respite more frequently than the other two types of respite groups, while those who received only informal respite reported less benefit than others. Parents who used formal respite (either alone or mixed with informal respite) reported greater stress reduction. The greatest increase in family stability was reported by parents who received a mix of informal and formal respite. While this study revealed clear benefits for families to using both informal and formal respite services, the findings suggest that formal respite care was helpful to parents regardless of whether used alone or in combination with informal care.

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Religious faith and depression among Child Protective Services involved mothers with young children Journal of Family Strengths

Madden, E. E., Aguiniga, D., & Zellmann, K. T.

2014-12-31

The findings of this study suggest that for many mothers involved in the child welfare system, religious faith plays a key role in their lives. Because child welfare services are designed to be temporary in nature, it would be beneficial for child welfare workers and the mothers that they work with to identify long-term, natural support systems, such as those that are found in faith communities, to assist families in maintaining progress and minimizing safety risks in the home. An increased understanding of the impact of religious beliefs may provide faith communities with the information needed to develop more effective resources and supports for their members.

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Agency-related barriers experienced by families seeking to adopt from foster care Adoption Quarterly

Chanmugam, A., Madden, E. E., Hanna, M., Ayers-Lopez, S., McRoy, R. G., & Ledesma, K.

2016-02-25

Although about 100,000 children in foster care await adoption, families approved to adopt encounter obstacles in the adoption process. This nationwide longitudinal study identified agency-related barriers faced by prospective adoptive parents. A pur-posively recruited sample of 300 families seeking to adopt from foster care completed an in-depth, semi-structured telephone interview and quarterly follow-up surveys until they either finalized a foster care adoption (n = 98) or discontinued (n = 102) the process, followed by an exit interview by telephone. Findings revealed the top barriers encountered were adoption process logistics (n = 185, 92.5%), agency communication and responsiveness (n = 159, 79.5%), agency emotional support (n = 130, 65%), availability of services (n = 65, 32.5%), and jurisdictional and interjurisdictional issues (n = 52, 26%). Policy and practice implications are provided with recommendations for improving procedures, services, support, and communication to better retain prospective adoptive parents and improve adoption outcomes.

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