Friday, February 2, 2007

"If I Don't Get Adopted in Three Years . . . "

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.


katie said...

After reading the bill my gut feeling is that this line of thinking, although appearing logical, in practice, will be a nightmare. I certainly agree that biological family is who kids will always seek out for answers to their identity and hopefulness of reconcilation and validation. Our job is to find and train stable families to help the child facilitate that relationship with birth parents, weather they go back to live with them or never speak to them again. This bill essentialy changes permancy time lines from 6 mo. to 3 years. This "loop hole" will make workers and kids think getting through the barriers to permanency with an adoptive family is not worth the hard work and dedication. It most certainly is and all the research we have on brain development and attachment will prove this.
Katie Fitzkappes, LSW
Adoption Social Worker

Paula said...

I think this bill would be very detrimental to children. Having adopted many older children, I know that birth family loyalty is already a difficult issue to work through, without adding fuel to the fire. The ages of my children when they arrived in our family were: 18,16,16,15,15,14,14,12,12,12,11,11,9,7,7,and 4. All of my children were in placemnt for longer than three years before they came to me and none of their parents did what they needed to for their children to return for them. I say to leave things as they are and if a child wants reunification with a birth family, then do it when they are 18 and they have a loving, stable home that will help them through that process.

gizmoiaa3 said...

My partner & I recently fnished our mapp training classes & just had our home study done about two weeks ago. We are interested in adopting older childred ages 12 thru 15, Does anyone have any suggestions on where to look for children who want to be adopted? I feel that most agencies focus more on recruitment than the do on placement of a child. We feel like we are sitting ducks. we get more invatatons to orientation meetings than we do to meet & greets. should their be a central data base that shows all agencies that we have been trained already? should they be talking to us about placements? We haven't recieved one phone call yet. To touch on data base again. Do these agencies have a listing of childred that want to be adopted or do they just post signs in group homes for kids to add their names to? we are very fustrated & eagerly waiting. We dont visit these sites often, so if anyone has any suggestions for us, please email us at thank you in advance