Monday, August 1, 2011


From the Toronto Star:
When the social worker told Jack VanNoord that she was taking away his 5 1/2-month-old foster child to be adopted by another family, the father of five had just one question for Children’s Aid:

“Are you running an adoption agency or are you acting in the best interests of the child?”

It didn’t seem right to VanNoord and his wife Cody to be uprooting the baby boy, whose inquisitive blue eyes and gummy smile had stolen their hearts in three short months with the family.

But in the fall of 1986 in the rural community of St. Thomas, south of London, it was rare for foster families to adopt, especially if they already had five children. Childless couples or those with just one child were the priority. And you had to be on the adoption waiting list.

“That all seemed rather silly to me,” recalls VanNoord. “What about the child? This would be the second separation. How many times can a child go through that?”

He immediately set to work researching the then-emerging theory of attachment between babies and caregivers. He hired a lawyer, sought the opinion of a noted London child psychologist and began his fight for the right to adopt baby Kris.

Today the VanNoords’ “courageous stand” is credited for sparking Ontario’s first foster-to-adopt program, where the goal is to ensure every child who comes into care is moved only once. If the child can’t go back home, the foster parents automatically become the adoptive family.

* * *

Jim Hummel, head of adoption and foster family recruitment from 1980 to 2001, says the VanNoords “presented a very cogent argument that made you sit back and reflect on what you were doing.”

Soon after the case, Hummel made the controversial decision to close the agency’s adoption waiting list — which had grown so long that many parents were waiting up to a decade for a child, anyway. From then on, all prospective parents were told the only way to adopt would be to foster the child first.

Many parents complained to the agency board and the local MPP, and some chose to adopt children from other areas. But Hummel stood his ground.

“There was a lot of criticism from colleagues in the field. We were seen as renegades,” he acknowledges. “It took several years to educate parents. But once you explained it, most embraced the idea.

“Under the old system, the adults had no risk while the children took all the risks,” he says. “Most people understand that’s just wrong.”
So the only way to adopt is to foster first, and that means fostering children who have not yet been released for adoption and who may be returned to their families.  What do you think?  They have it right, don't they, that the parents, not the child, should bear the risk?  Would you accept that risk?  Have you accepted that risk?


Anonymous said...

Why use an article that is so old? 1989?

DannieA said...

I accepted the risk....and it is practiced where I live. There's no straight adopt from foster care here, only fost/adopt.

Anonymous said...

we did take the risk, and after a 2 day old baby left us after only 6 weeks, we never fostered again. But great for this baby, she went back to her mom; our caring for the baby allowed the mom some breathing room to get herself ready to be a mom and there was only 1 transition for the baby. Heartbreaking for us but good for the baby.

malinda said...

The article is dated Aug. 1, 2011 -- it just starts out talking about an incident in 1989.

Pix said...

This is the current practice where I live as well, in Wisconsin. Personally, we were not willing to take this risk for a lot of reasons. But I know many people who have taken the risk. Some of those situations have resulted in adoption of the foster child, but most have not. They usually have to foster a few kids before the adoption actually works out. That's not a great scenario for the children or the hopeful families. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did an outstanding series on this very topic that examines the reasons this is the current practice and some of the issues behind it. Here's the link:

Jess said...

This is a fascinating topic.

My state in Australia is the only one that offers anything remotely like a foster-adopt program, which I am currently applying for. They do not like people converting from foster care to adoption, because the goals of the programs are completely different. However, I know of a number of people who've done this. It can be very harrowing and you obviously don't have the certainty that comes with receiving a placement where the child has the appropriate court orders that you're confident you will be a forever family.

Having heard of the experiences of people that have done the conversion and knowing that it is strongly discouraged from the Department, coupled with my own situation where I could take time off work on parental leave for a forever child, but not a foster child, I've chosen not to take the risk and just go through the formal foster-adopt process. I don't think children should be moved through so they're available for people like me to adopt though if they're in a foster family that would like to take on permanent guardianship.

Everyone knows that a priority is the less moves the better and I think that should always be at the forefront of legislators minds. Unfortunately it often isn't!

Lori Printy said...

foster to adopt is the way things are done in my area. Frankly, it is the reason we looked to IA. Fostering represented risks (potential loss) I was unable to take for me or the other children already in my family.

That said it is a child centric and therefore good approach to long as the number of willing foster to adopt parents out number the number of children needing families.

Sharon said...

This is the stated practice in the county where I live...except there are many families that want to be foster families only and don't want to adopt. The result is that kids do get moved from home to home, and those whose primary motivation is to adopt may not choose to participate because of the emotional risk. We didn't for that reason.

Anonymous said...

I think it deters perspective adoptive parents, especially if you already have children in the house.