Saturday, November 26, 2011

When is Enough Enough?

The Chicago Tribune writes about a family with 14 children, 6 adopted from Africa, who want to adopt more but can't get approval from the necessary state agency because of the size of the family:
But the Twietmeyers and other like-minded large families in Illinois face an obstacle to their mission of adopting from countries where the orphan crises are especially dire. In order to adopt children from countries such as Uganda, India and the Philippines, parents must be licensed by the state as foster care families. That's a problem for the Twietmeyers and other families who far exceed the standard licensing limit.

It's also a problem for Jojo, Carolyn Twietmeyer's nickname for Jonathan, a 3-year-old child with Down syndrome and HIV, who lives in a Ugandan orphanage. Twietmeyer dreams of the day she can bring him home and call him her son.

But social workers at the Twietmeyers' adoption agency say they have been told the family won't be licensed for more children, a necessary step to adopt from Uganda, where adoptions are not finalized until after children reach the U.S.

The conflict pits the families' desire to live out their religious mission of caring for orphans against the state's mission to protect children.

Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said enough adoption agencies have abused their authority that it would be irresponsible to allow private adoption agencies to operate without public oversight. Five other states — Alabama, Colorado, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina — have similar guidelines, Marlowe said.

* * *

While the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has to approve a home study for every international adoption, the state also must issue a foster care license to parents adopting from certain countries such as Uganda and the Philippines where adoptions can't be finalized outside the U.S.

Families who apply can be licensed for up to eight children, more with a waiver. Children with special needs count twice, reducing the total number of children that families can have in their home.

* * *

As the Twietmeyers' children took turns one recent afternoon cradling their youngest sibling — Sofia, who has Down syndrome and who came to the family through a domestic adoption — they showered her with kisses. The couple pointed out that a large family is ideal for a child with special needs because there is no shortage of affection and helping hands.

But child welfare experts often see a fine line between a large family and a group home and worry that parents can rely too much on older siblings to serve as housekeepers, cooks and caregivers.
So what do you think?  Is Illinois right to impose a limit on family size?  Is 8 enough? Does a large family seem more like a group home? At what point does a large family become a group home?


Karen said...

I don't know why....There's NO limit on how many birth children one can have in the household. If the government thinks it creates a problem on the ability to raise them, then why not impose the same limitations on birth families?? Instead, we sensationalize them with reality TV shows like the Duggers have going.

Anonymous said...


Because bio children are NOT the same as adopted children, especially older special needs children.

I'm also wary of any family whose "mission" it is to adopt children, especially a religious mission.

Anonymous said...

"The conflict pits the families' desire to live out their religious mission of caring for orphans against the state's mission to protect children."

That right there is why I'm going to have to side with the state on this one.

Anonymous said...

I'm conflicted because it seems to me these are people trying to adopt highly UNdesired children in the adoption market-- and yet-- you need to protect children from becoming caregivers, abused and/or having their parents become adoption "collectors".

I would be completely on the state's side except in our state it is often run with incompentancy that is frightening.

Anon #1

Suzanne said...

As a single mom to 4 kids, it is hard for me to imagine having 7 or what would be comparable to a couple having 14 kids - and many special needs - was very hard for people (many couples) to imagine having 4 when I was adopting my 4th. I think we cannot know what the house runs like and what the stresses they have in most thing, I think that these cases should be individualized.

I grew up in a family of 7 kids. Some might have called that too many (although it was more acceptable in the day)...we never felt like a group home - though having 4 kids share a bedroom might have - to the outside world - seemed like one! I also helped alot with the caretaking of my 3 younger sibs...but I never resented it or felt that my parents used me. It was what needed to be done to keep the house running and I was glad to have them and am probably closer in adulthood to my younger sisters than I am to my older sister (with whom there was too much rivalry at the time).
On the other hand, I think there is some research to support the idea that there is more stress in families - particularly large families who have multiple children with special needs - and that that stress sometimes manifests itself as bad outcomes.

Anonymous said...

All else aside, it looks like this family doesn't meet the USCIS minimum income threshold -- the article says their income is $64K and the UCSIS minimum is $68K (there are 14 people living in their house, as the article says 2 of the 14 kids do not live at home; so $47K for the first 8 people in the household, plus 4 x $5K for each additional person).

USCIS guidelines are online at:

Anonymous said...

Glad you are asking this question Malinda. It needs to be asked.

"The conflict pits the families' desire to live out their religious mission of caring for orphans against the state's mission to protect children."

I disagree with the idea of adopting children from other countries to support one's religious mission. This should apply in the case of one adoption or 14. In my opinion this is a recipe for adoptee rebellion in the teen years when adoption issues and questions surface.

Aren't we trying to teach adoptees to accept various cultures and beliefs as we want them to be accepted? IF we want to raise emotionally healthy children, it's important to raise them to accept other views and religions not JUST Christianity. We are all interconnected in this big world.

I think it's self absorbed to adopt a child with the intent of forcing your religion on them when this child's indigenous culture has an entirely different religion.

Shouldn't they at one point be allowed to explore the religion prevalent in their birth culture or at least exposed to it?

And why do I have the feeling that most of these families have no intent of allowing them this freedom. Choosing one's own religious preference is after all American, isn't it? This is about freedom to CHOOSE. That 's why we live here in American so we can make choices instead of having someone make them for us. But these families don't believe in choice at any level I'm sure.

Sounds like colonialism and a desire to raise the child "white" and it's my belief this "saving orphans" attitude and philosophy is rooted in racism. I'm sure those involved would deny it and claim themselves only as do-gooders saving the world.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

At what point should they be considered to be a small orphanage and subject to ongoing inspections? Also, there should b e statistics there..., are large families at higher risk for abuse issues?