Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fost-adopt tips

A reader wrote in asking for information about foster-to-adopt and whether the program works. (Hi, LN!) I e-mailed her in response. And I have to be honest, I was so impressed with my answer that I thought I'd share it with the blog audience (yes, all ten of you) too.

That's a hard question to answer. For us, it is working - finally. I told this reader there are no guarantees in this system that you will adopt any particular child placed in your home. But here are the tips I can offer to increase the odds you will be able to adopt successfully from the foster care system:

  • Work directly with the county or state, not with a private agency. This will most likely allow you to take placements of kids from your local area so you do not have to travel for visits and court dates.
  • Do everything they ask of you - the paperwork and classes and appointments can be overwhelming but you have to stay on top of it to stay in good graces with everybody.
  • Make it clear from the outset that you are interested in adopting and not in a succession of temporary foster placements. Repeat as necessary with EVERY social worker you come in contact with. Write it down and send it to them and ask that it be placed in the file.
  • Tell them you want to take placement of children whose parents are being denied services or who are most likely to become available for adoption.
  • Be open to older kids, special needs kids, drug-exposed kids, abused kids, whatever you feel you can handle. The more open you can be, the faster you will be successful. But don't bite off more than you can chew. Not everybody is cut out for every kind of kid.
  • Once a child has been in your home 6 months, hire an attorney and petition for de facto parent status and prospective adoptive parent status designated by the court. You can do these things yourself but a knowledgeable family law attorney will offer you the benefit of connections and knowledge that you could not possibly have on your own. They will also help you keep from making stupid mistakes. If you can manage it, think now about getting legal insurance. Ours is through ARAG.
  • Get a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the child as soon as you can. This is not available in our county (which is scandalous!) but it is an awesome program that can really inject a good dose of common sense into the CPS/court system.
  • At the same time try to create good relationships with biological parents, with clear boundaries. Be cooperative and friendly at visits. Get to know them. You will be amazed how fast you develop understanding and sympathy in situations with which you might have previously had no patience at all.
  • If you experience anything negative with a social worker, set up a meeting with the director of the foster agency and explain what has happened (calmly and nicely of course). If things go really wrong, request that your case undergo administrative review.
  • Always remember that the first goal of a foster agency is reunification with the biological parents. They are not primarily there to help you adopt. There is nobody who is paid to be on your side. (Another great reason to hire an attorney!) You will be treated as a babysitter. It takes a lot of strength to do this. You have to be very prepared to stand up and fight for yourself and for the kids in your home.


WatchMeLoseWeight said...

Thank you so much for the tips, this is definitely something that I will refer to in a few years when we begin our foster to adopt journey!


Essy said...

Great list. I would also add to be prepared for it to be the most difficult and most rewarding journey of your life.