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2.2 Foster care to adoption

Since everyone working with children in care wants permanence for them, let's revisit concurrent planning from a somewhat different perspective.

Starting February 2, family preservation staff worked with the Renolds family due to concerns about educational and environmental neglect, inadequate supervision, lack of parenting skills, and the immature judgement of Mrs. Renolds.

The home has been, at times, very dirty, in disarray, and in disrepair with broken windows, torn furniture, holes in the walls, and backed-up plumbing. Agency funds were used to correct these conditions the week of February 4 and again the week of March 29. Similar conditions were once more present on April 24.

According to neighbors, Mrs. Renolds allows teenagers in her home at all hours of the day or night. Poor judgement about friends has resulted in domestic violence and alleged drug use in the home, placing the children at further risk. Money has been stolen and the home vandalized by people who frequent the home.

The children are poorly supervised. Mrs. Renolds has allowed Kelly, age 7, and Linda, age 9, to miss over forty days of school during the current school year. Additionally, she permitted the girls to wander around the neighborhood after 10:30 p.m. without adult supervision. This resulted in Mrs. Renolds being unable to find the children on the night of April 23. Her explanation was, "They said they were just going outside to play." Mrs. Renolds did contact the police, at 3:15 a.m. on April 24. They assisted her in locating the children.

Mrs. Renolds failed, on three occasions, to follow through with counseling referrals, in spite of acknowledging depression and parenting problems with her children.

The children are frequently dirty, improperly fed, and their immediate needs for supervision and nurturing aren’t being met. Despite extensive efforts by the agency and assistance by relatives, care and supervision of the children remains a concern.

The children's father is currently incarcerated for a domestic violence conviction. Neither he nor other relatives are able to care for the children.

Based on its investigation and on the recommendation of the family preservation staff, Social Services requested the court grant temporary custody of the children to the agency. Custody was granted on April 24 and the children were placed into care.

There are many things you will want to think about here. For now, though, focus specifically on permanence for the girls. Workers are continuing services to Mrs. Renolds so she can learn to provide a more appropriate environment for her children. This could take many months and may not succeed. In the meantime, the girls are having to adjust to a new school, are making new friends, are learning about a new home with new people and new expectations, and are re-inventing their lives. They continue to visit with their mother. She is making little to no progress and is unlikely to ever be a responsible parent, although she cares about the girls and they still love her.

As you know, this situation can't go on much longer. They can't remain in care indefinitely. They need and must have a permanent home.

Planning for permanence started the first day the girls came into care. The primary plan was for the children to reunify with their mother. Since there were no other relatives who could take the girls, "adoption" was the backup plan.

From your point of view:

Write your thoughts after each question.

•           How do you think you and the girls would get along, if they came to live at your home?

•           What special behavior and adjustment problems would you anticipate needing to deal with?

•           How would you help the children stay connected with their personal culture, e.g. race, ethnic heritage, religion?

•           How would you feel about working with the children's mother and helping with reunification efforts?

•           If the children can't ever go home, would you be open to adopting them?

•           If you adopted the children, how important do you think it would be for them to keep an ongoing relationship with their mother, with other birth-relatives, with their friends from their old neighborhood?

•           If the girls were with you for a few months and you and your family decided keeping them was inconvenient or too disruptive, what would be the effect on the children if you chose to have them moved? Would the effect be different if they were boys, if they were older, if they were younger?

•           If you don't adopt the girls, what do you think the effect on them would be when they have to move to a different adoptive home? Remember they have been with you for a few months.

•           How would you help the children (and the new adoptive family) with the girls' transition to their new home, if they have to move?

•           What do you think the "best" permanence plan would have been for the children, on the first day they were placed?

•           How important will it be for the children to stay together? It isn’t uncommon for brothers and sisters to be separated and placed into different homes.

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Please send comments or questions to Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. GAC@GaryCrow.net