Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why is it so hard to adopt from foster care?

At Huffington Post, looking at barriers to adopting from foster care in California:
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.

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.
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.


DannieA said...

it also varies by county. Although from orientation/initial application to finalization took 2 years for me as well (in CA). However, I was fostering my daughter for almost a year so really the process until placement was around a year or so. Sounds about right. Fast and easy sometimes isn't the best either...of course the people I worked with were very um anal about returning calls and letting me know about court dates so I was very fortunate in that area.

sharon said...

We took 24 hours of foster parent training in Calif but ultimately decided not to apply to the program, given the uncertainty. We met several veteran foster parents in our class who were renewing their credentials who were fighting with the county on various issues ie returning a child to an abusive home, or county trying to remove a baby from a single mother after 9 mos on track to adopt her and instead place the child in a two parent home.

Von said...

Interesting piece for the sense of entitlement it conveys and the disappointment when entitlement doesn't get you what you think you deserve or want.

bytheriver said...

Thought we could adopt from foster care but found that after completing all the requirements, we were told our chances were extremely low of ever finding a single female child 6 or under, any race, because we both work (yes, there's an argument to be made there, but in CA its pretty hard to survive and keep the house if you don't both work). Our choice on number and sex of child were limited by our small home and current daughter. It was a major disappointment.

DannieA said...

another thing...if one goes through an agency for fost/adopt, the agency still has it's requirements too (e.g. Stay at home parent vs. working parents)

Usually working with the county they welcome you with open arms.

From personal observation I find that people are scared of working with the system directly. I understand I am biased with my ambivalence about the system since I work in public schools (yet another system that can be frustrating and full of red tape)But you work within it not against it. It's about the kids isn't it? Once a county worker smells territorial blood from a prospective family they tend to be biased....know that going in and educate yourself on the intricasies and red tape that often happen.

In my observations of families I know in real life that have been happy going through their county (mostly co-workers I'm acquainted with) it seems that working in a "system" already has alleviated many frustration that some families tend to have (e.g. long time lines, work certain hours only, furlough days, etc.)
From start to I know, it's taken about 2 years from paperwork chasing to finalization. We're talking infant, preschooler, sibling group, a tween, and older teenager.

Anonymous said...

@ Von,

How is this entitlement? Curious.

When our own government sponsors days to meet prospective children and "match" families, offers subsidies, tax credits and runs PA's about adopting from the U.S. and the pressing need.....?? ( for the record I don't approve of those "kids on parade days"...shudder)

Only to then stymie families hoping to do so in a timely fashion? And by that I mean keeping it within 1 to 2 years. Keeping it professional and transparent. Children whose ties to their first families have already been severed? ....Who does that benefit?

And more importantly....who loses in that scenario? (When the impetus to wait is mismanagement.) Answer: the children.

To me this smacks of beauracracy, red tape, underperformance by poorly funded/or ill trained and often times understaffed employees and so on.....

Its time to brush up on Basic Entitlement 101 when even this reeks of entitlement to you. IMOP.

Anon. Carol Ann

Anonymous said...

I live in NM, We completed education, home studies and everything in a 2 month period, but the long process has been getting a child we could adopt, the foster care system no longer seems to care about the "best interests" of the children in their care, but instead the they care more about the parents that didn't care about their childs best wellfair from the get go. We have lost child after child, so heart wrenching, yet I hear the same thing, there are tons of children needing forever homes. I am a stay at home mom with a husband that makes a descent income, our bio daughter is 6 and so I have TONS of time, energy and material to take care of a child and provide that forever home. It is so frustrating when someone that continues to do drugs and put their children at harm and who are unemployed can earn their children back by simply bringing happy meals to their visitations. Its all part of why society has been breaking down the way it has, you have both issues, parents who can't adopt and children who can't get adopted. What a sick, sick world.