When we agreed to this state adoption thing I had three conditions. 1. We adopt a boy (ca-ching!) 2. That he not have any profound special needs (oh well). 3. That he be “free” for adoption (no parenthetical statement needed because that’s what this post is about).
On the third point my wife was as insistent as I was. Probably more.
I’ll try to explain what it means to be “free” for adoption. It won’t be brief but I promise it will be boring.
The fear-factor class we have described in previous posts is called “Fundamentals of Adoptive and Foster Parenting.” People who want to adopt go through the exact same process as foster parents and end up with the same license.
Foster parents work for the state. The children are in the state’s custody and foster parents are paid to keep an eye on them. The state’s goal is to get families back together and, as its employees, foster parents are required to share that goal. The big no-no in foster care is undermining any effort at reunification.
Through its Department of Health and Human Services, the state rarely intervenes in how a child is raised and only separates families when a judge agrees with a social worker that not doing so puts the child’s health or safety in immediate danger. I could get out the statistics about the numbers of complaints made to DHHS, how many complaints actually trigger an investigation, how many investigations result in action and how many of those actions involve removing a child, but trust me, the numbers would be a lot, not many, very few and a small fraction.
Intervention by the state comes at any time in the child’s life. DHHS can be called to the maternity ward or problems may not surface until the child has reached puberty or later.
All parents should sleep better at night knowing it is very, very hard for the state to take your children. The state also spares no effort trying to help the parents address whatever it was that led to the removal – addiction, anger, psychiatric illness or some combination of these and others.
The reunification process involves therapy, treatment, learning coping skills, financial help and parent-child visits involving various degrees of supervision and duration. Sometimes families are reunified and move on with their lives and sometimes they are reunified only to be separated again.
The goal in all of this is not to serve the best interest of the child, but to ensure the parents are capable of doing an adequate job.
If after many, many months, neither of the parents get to a place where DHHS and the child’s lawyer (guardian ad litem) feel the child will be safe if returned to the home, the state then may try to sever parental rights. This decision triggers a new process that involves judges and more lawyers, delays and appeals. At any time in this process both parent can agree that either they don’t want the child or don’t want to do the things they need to do to get their child back, and can sever their own parental rights.
If the state wins its case, the child is “free” for adoption.
So into a class that will explain all of this walks a couple insistent that they are only interested in adoption and, oh yeah, they want a kid around two or three years old and free of disability.
The people who knew better would hear this couple and react with an expression that telegraphed “Good luck with that.”
Do the math. If you want a kid who’s two and it takes 18 months or more before a child is adoptable,the odds of succeeding approach those of purchasing that scratch ticket that will let you tell your boss to shove it.
It behooves you to become a foster parent. Have the child in your home as this process unfolds, hoping that … oops! Remember, your job is to hope the child goes back from where they came – knowing all you know about that home.
Be strong. The process is cheap, but it ain’t free.