There is a new bill being introduced in Washington State which would allow for children to petition the court and ask to be reunified with their birth parents if they have not been adopted after three years. The bill in it's entirety can be read here.
The spirit of the bill is this situation, and I quote from the bill, "There may be cases in which a child will no longer be at risk of abuse or neglect by a former parent and it is in the best interests of a child who is legally free to be reunited with his or her parent." While this scenario happen ocassionally, and it would certainly be better for the child to have some adults in their lives instead of aging out of the parents have changed substantially and are able to have a healthy relationship, but I'm wondering if that might be the exception rather than the rule.
The implications I see, as a person who attempts to match children on a daily basis, is that this law, if understood by the children, could keep them from healing and moving on. Many older children are cautious about being adopted and they know how to manipulate the system. If their behavior is horrible, nobody will adopt them. What if there was that hope for them: If I just hold out three years then I can ask to live with my parents again. And, unfortunately, it is my belief that if the bill passes, the majority of these requests would have to be denied in order to preserve the best interest of the child.
So, I see a scenario like this one (not a true story, but certainly could be): Katie is very attached to her birth mother even though she has emotionally abused her for years and was sexually abused by many of her mothers boyfriends. Her mother was consisently attracted to men who were abusive to her and to her children. Katie is removed at the age of twelve. She's bright and she heard about a new law that says that in three years she can go live with her mom again if she hasn't been adopted."
Do you think this child is going to be helpful to her social worker in trying to find a new family? Will she understand that the request for ruinification is not a guarantee? Will she use her behaviors to make herself "unadoptable" on purpose?
I am sure that there are those who would say, "There aren't homes that will adopt teenagers anyway" but there are a few and I have seen several "success stories" in placing kids over 14.
I see pros and cons to this legislation. However, it appears to me that the benefit it might provide in a few situations might not be enough to compensate for the many children it would keep from being adopted. I'm interested in others opinions.