foster care to adoption

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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We are at the end stages of our foster care journey with Sweet M. The inefficiency of the child welfare system will never cease to amaze me. For this case, the most clear-cut case they could ever hope or ask for, it will still be 18 months from placement to permanency. That is too long. They’ve had permanent custody of Sweet M since July. There is no reason that adoption shouldn’t have occurred early this fall. Except. Inefficiency.

In our county, after permanent custody has been awarded to the state, the case is supposed to move from the foster care unit to the adoption unit. This necessitates a change in workers. They have 30 days from permanent custody to have the initial matching meeting. A matching meeting involves the adoption caseworker, along with a supervisor, and perhaps a committee of sorts. I’m not exactly sure of all the players since potential parents are never invited to these meetings. At that meeting, if there are multiple applicants to adopt a particular child, they will sift and choose the best candidates. They may not choose a final candidate at that first meeting. However, in Sweet M’s case, there were no other applicants. Just us. They didn’t advertise her (as is supposedly legally required) because there is no reason. No other family would beat us in a matching meeting because we are already her family and there are no other extenuating circumstances (siblings, etc.) that would jeopardize that, if that makes sense.

We were matched within 30 days. We met the adoption worker not long after that. She didn’t officially even have the case, but she started to take over monthly home visits and such. She didn’t have the case file yet, but she began to fill out all the reports she was required to complete. One of those was a large family assessment, since we have more than four kids. She came to interview all of the children separately to find out how they felt about our family, about Sweet M, about the adoption, etc. Apparently your children’s feelings and thoughts don’t matter unless they have at least three siblings. I’m, frankly, super confused by this requirement.

Fast forward months. She still didn’t have the whole case file. When a child moves toward adoption, the workers have to file with every single place she has ever been or received care. Every hospital, every doctor’s office, every therapist’s office, etc. This takes some time to gather. In our county, they will also make copies of the original birth certificate and social security card for our records. Once adoption occurs, the child is issued an amended birth certificate. Or as I like to call it, the paper of lies. This birth certificate lists the adoptive parents as the birth parents. The location is where the adoption takes place. The birth date, however, is still the same. So the farce is that we were, according to this piece of paper, there for the birth of our child. False. Also? We’re not the birth parents. In some states, if you have been adopted, you do not have the right to have a copy of your original birth certificate. In some states, you aren’t even allowed to get it as an adult. I have so many feelings about this state of affairs, and they are too numerous for this post. Suffice it to say, I am not a fan of this system, and I am eternally grateful that our county takes the time to make sure that the kids who leave their care have access to their original documents.

Once the case worker got the full case file, we had to take Sweet M for a psychological evaluation. Basically an attachment assessment at this age. Guess what? She’s securely attached to me. Surprise.

After that report made its way to the caseworker’s desk, she dropped off the whole file to us, and the next day we went in to sign the adoptive placement papers. This makes it all very official and yet still not official. It’s essentially the go-ahead to file in court for the adoption finalization. We have to sign a gazillion papers that say we’ve received all the information about Sweet M, that we know her special needs, that we’ve agreed on an adoption subsidy, that she will receive Ohio Medicaid until 18, etc. It takes awhile to make it through all the paperwork.

After we left the agency, we went straight to the attorney’s office for him to work on his part. Signed more papers there, made sure everything was correct for the amended birth certificate, and then we went back to our car with full hope that things would move along quickly.

It’s been two weeks now, and we still have no court date. All we’ve received is confirmation that in spite of all assurances to the contrary, the final report is still not done and still not filed with the court. There’s been quite a number of heavy sighs and more than a few angry tears in the past week or so at this house. It’s just so frustrating to count up the months and realize that by that time we finalize Sweet M’s adoption, she will have been with us 18 months. 18 months for the easiest case the agency could’ve asked for. 18 months of them knowing this was going to be the outcome, yet 18 months of them not preparing for it. Sometimes the system just astounds me. I’m not surprised by inefficiency in government usually, but then sometimes I am just taken aback by how truly terrible it is. It doesn’t truly matter since Sweet M’s placement was never at risk, and she’s been safe and secure with us the whole time. She certainly doesn’t know any of this has occurred. Still. If I were in charge……

So here we are. Still waiting. Yet still convinced this thing we’re doing is worth doing no matter the headache, frustration, and cost. It’s worth it all. She is worth it all.

photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc
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