private vs. public

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quite a few people have spoken with us or we've read/heard general advice about going with a private agency vs. going with the county direct. I thought for awhile that maybe we had made a mistake going with the county instead. Maybe we have still, I don't know. But there are several reasons why I feel good about our decision to go directly with the county. The first is that the county is the only agency that is non-profit. Private foster agencies, private adoption agencies, even adoption lawyers - all of these people are for-profit organizations. The second reason is that the county will go to private foster agencies ONLY if there is no available placement among their own homes or homes in surrounding counties. So, just as in foster-adopt vs. straight adoption licensing, if we are licensed directly with the county, we will get first priority when it comes to placing kids. The third reason why I have an initial level of reticence with private foster care is that it costs 3-4 times as much to place a child through private foster care. Whereas the payment for a child placed through the county would be about $20/day, when they place through private agencies, they are paying something more like $80/day. This doesn't sit tremendously well with me when we're looking at a system already strapped, a bad economy, and the possibility that funding will lessen depending on the financial direction of the government.

There are some advantages to going with private foster care. The most important that I can see is that you get a higher level of personal care. You will have your own case worker in addition to the child's case worker. You may be much more likely to get personal visits, prompt call-backs, etc. That extra money the county is paying to the agency is clearly going to pay for extra services which are provided to the families. Also, one of the primary places that I see private foster care playing a tremendously beneficial role in is with children who have more special needs - emotional, medical, whatever. In that case, the families who agree to take on the really hard cases will definitely need any extra support they can get. But in my case, at least the way I'm feeling right now - I'm more willing to fight with the system and take less personal service if that means that the county can save some money and hopefully provide needed services to the families that they care for. We'll see if my opinion changes as we continue this... :)

further on fost-to-adopt and adoption

Monday, February 2, 2009

In response to some questions, I thought I would clarify a little for the record why we made the decision to foster-to-adopt instead of just straight adoption through the state. Ohio offers an option to strictly be licensed to adopt through the state. Apparently not all states offer this option, which I find curious. Anyway, we decided not to go that route under counsel from the agency.

One of the reasons is that when kids come into the system, they are immediately placed with a foster family. It then takes a year or more for them to enter permanent custody. They are not eligible for adoption until they are in permanent custody. So in that year, these children have lived with one or more foster families, all of which have first 'dibs' when it comes time that the kids enter permanent custody of the state. We, at this point, feel strongly about not upsetting our birth order of the children we already have, plus we were counseled to stick with younger kids while we have young kids in the home still. As you can imagine though, it is very rare for toddlers and infants to enter permanent custody without an already identified foster home. Most of the time, if they are not adopted by relatives, the foster family that they are already living with adopts them. It is very difficult to get a very young child through adoption-only. I'm sure that there are instances where it has been done, but by and large, it's not really how the system works. (At least as far as our research and what we've been told....once again - we are NOT experts on all parts of the child welfare system)

We realize that choosing to foster first opens us up to some risk. In fact, they used to call foster-to-adopt "legal risk". The social workers may have a very good sense of where the case is heading, as in the one mom they have right now who is pregnant with her eighth child and all previous seven children have already been removed. Chances are high that this mom will not retain custody of this baby. But they cannot guarantee that...thus the 'risk'.

The thing that we are currently reminding ourselves of is that there are no guarantees in any section of life. I cannot guarantee that Ben and Maggie will live to reach tomorrow. They could have died at birth, even days, weeks, or months later. The fact is, they aren't MINE. They belong to God. I get to love them and live with them, but I'm not in control of their lives...or their deaths. So when I think about how much 'risk' we will accept in this process, or when I start to push to minimize all risk, I am taking things out of God's hands and trying to take control. We will have to make tough decisions in this arena when we start to get calls for placements, but we have to not try to control all parts of this situation. We're not in control. There is a huge possibility for pain, just as there is with having biological children. We could accept a child only to have them reunify with their families weeks or months later. I hope and pray that we will not have to experience that, but I don't know for sure where this journey will lead us. I have mixed emotions anyway because I very strongly believe that the absolute best place for any child is with their biological parents in a healthy family. So I expect some emotional conflict regarding the hope for healing and reunification with children's birth families vs. our desire to grow our own family through adoption.

I'm sure there will be much more to say about this portion of our journey later...many more hard decisions to come...we would definitely appreciate prayer for this aspect.
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