When James and his wife Stephanie, an attorney and bank compliance officer, decided in early 2009 to adopt a daughter through foster care, he assumed it would be pretty easy. After all, there are 68,000 children in foster care in California. Over a quarter of these children are African American, four times their proportion of the general population. James worked at a San Diego nonprofit that trains Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) to protect the best interests of foster children. James assumed that as a two-parent black family, a child advocate and an attorney, a couple who had already became parents to a son through a private adoption, California's child welfare system would welcome them with open arms.The article identifies problems that likely apply to other states as well: budget shortfalls affecting the work of placing children, difficulties with county jurisdiction and adopting across those lines, and lack of recruitment of adoptive parents. I also recognize that different people have different experiences -- I hear stories about how easy it is to adopt from foster care, too.
James was wrong.
The entire process, from application to finalization took almost two years. The problem was not the private agency they worked with. James raves about how responsive they were. For James and Stephanie, their experience with California's public agencies is where the adoption process became a story of frustration, unreturned calls, and irrational bureaucracy. It took over a year before they were even considered for a waiting child. Their struggle presents a case study in the obstacles that face anyone trying to adopt a child from a public agency in California.
Still hoping for change
5 days ago