Campus News

UK Social Work Adoption Support Program Steps Up During COVID-19

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 9, 2020) — As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise, the pandemic is having a profound impact on Americans — fundamentally reshaping the way we communicate.

Parents are among those struggling to maintain normalcy. Balancing child care and self-care is no simple task.

But the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has a simple response — you don’t have to do it alone.

Across the Commonwealth, countless virtual trainings and webinars have offered parents helpful advice and resources. However, few have explicitly communicated to a unique group of parents — those who have adopted children.

“The challenges facing adoptive parents are very unique and complex,” Lauren Lynch, the CoSW program coordinator, explained. “Many of the existing resources don’t take into account these complexities.”  

Research shows that adoptive parents are often faced with burdensome legal processes, complicated youth histories and feelings of isolation. COVID-19 has made those challenges even more complex.

“Without question, the current public health crisis can exacerbate the challenges faced by adoptive parents,” Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW, said. “When Governor Beshear declared a state of emergency, we knew that we needed to mobilize — virtually — to ensure adoptive parents are supported during this crucial time.”  

With that mission in mind, the CoSW rapidly deployed an expanded service model for the Adoption Support for Kentucky – Virtual Interaction Program (ASK-VIP).

ASK-VIP, which launched as a pilot program in 2018, is a virtual service initiative that connects and supports adoptive parents across Kentucky. The online discussions are a safe space for caregivers to share their experiences without fear of judgment. Additionally, the program offers specialized training provided by a peer facilitator, who is also an adoptive parent.

In response to COVID-19, CoSW staff developed a new web-based portal and implemented condensed training models. “The need for supportive services has drastically increased over the last several weeks,” Missy Segress, director of centers and labs in CoSW, continued. “It has taken an immense effort on the part of our staff to ramp up the program, but they have done an excellent job of building new services and expanding on existing ones.”

The expanded ASK-VIP launched statewide on March 21. Since then, the program has provided services to more than 330 adoptive parents.

For many, access to these support services is vital.   

“For adoptive parents like myself, ASK-VIP is crucial to alleviating caregiver stress associated with the current COVID situation,” Karen Bowman, CoSW training specialist and adoptive parent, said. “The support and training offered via ASK-VIP provide stability and consistency in an increasingly chaotic environment. For adoptive parents, it’s the most stable thing in their life right now.”

To learn more about ASK-VIP, you can contact Karen Bowman.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.