Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Adoption Opus

**Warning - long post today - you may want to get a cuppa tea before reading**

While my heart belongs to special needs adoptions from the foster care system, other types of adoption do exist and are quite popular. While I have some reservations about these other types, and I will share those reservations with you, here first is a short explanation of those other types.

At least in my state, there are two types of adoptions – agency placements and non-agency placements.

Agency placements occur when the child is in the custody of a public or private social service agency. In an agency placement, all parental rights are terminated by the courts OR the birth parents sign an "entrustment" to the agency. The termination or entrustment gives the agency the authority to place the child for adoption, and the agency consents to the child's adoption before the child is placed for adoption. These are the special needs/foster care adoptions about which I write.

A non-agency placement occurs when the child is not in the custody of an agency. In a non-agency placement, the birth parents or legal guardian(s) consent to the adoption and parental rights are terminated via direct consent of the birth parents in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Non-agency placements are broken down further into three types.

Parental Placement Adoptions - In a parental placement, a licensed child-placing agency completes a home study report, conducts the Simultaneous Meeting (no longer required by law, but is required by this agency for our clients) between birth and adoptive parents, and provides a Report to Court. The Report includes home study information, background information on the birth parents and birth of the child and certifies to the Court that all identifying information has been exchanged, all parties are making an informed and un-coerced decision and recommends that this placement appears to be in the best interest of the child. The adoptive parents' attorney files a petition in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for execution of the birth parents consent and awarding of custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court reviews the Report to Court to determine whether the requirements of law have been met, accepts parental consent, and transfers custody to the adoptive parents. An Adoption Petition may then be filed in Circuit Court. Please note that this type of adoption frequently has the physical placement of the child into the adoptive family occur prior to court consent, usually from the hospital. This means that the adoptive family accepts placement of the child under "legal risk" as the placing parents still have time to change their mind about adoption

Stepparent adoptions - A stepparent adoption is when the spouse of the birth or adoptive parent is adopting the child. Typically, no home study is required unless the parent whose rights will be terminated disagrees with the stepparent adoption.

Adult Adoptions - An adult adoption is the adoption of any person who is 18 years of age or older at the time that the adoption petition is filed.

Adoptions may also be facilitated from other states and from foreign countries.

Interstate Adoptions – An adoption where the child from one state is adopted by parents in another state. All Interstate Adoptions must comply with all regulations and procedures of the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) office, in both the adoptive parent state and the child’s state of residence.

Intercountry Adoptions – An Intercountry adoption is when parents adopt a child from a foreign country. This is a type of adoption I know the least about. However, I know and have many friends who have chosen this route to adoption.

So what are my concerns with non-agency adoptions and intercountry adoptions? First – a disclaimer. My concerns are based solely on observations and information from families that have chosen those types of adoptions. I do not, in any capacity, claim to be an expert in these matters.

I have several friends who chose intercountry adoption because they believed they could get a healthy, Caucasian infant or young child, something that is often difficult in the states. I have seen some of those adoptions flourish, but I have also seen many problems and failures.

Children who grow up in institutions will not be unscathed by the experience. Some children can handle that and grow into healthy, happy young people. Some cannot. The same issues often seen in adoptions from the foster care system – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, emotional problems, developmental delay – will be seen in children adopted from other countries. Added into those issues is almost always a language problem for some period of time.

Earlier this year, I posted a story about a mother who sent her adopted son back to Russia. Unfortunately, I have many friends who have had similar experiences with children adopted overseas. While none of them put their child on a plane to go back to their home country, life continues to be difficult for those families.

I also have friends who have adopted their children through parental placements – children who at birth were placed in their adoptive families. There are success stories and there are horror stories. As we all know, just because a baby is born seemingly healthy, does not mean they will have no issues.

My primary concern then is that the children from parental placements and intercountry placements do not have access to many of the supports that children from foster care placements have. And those supports are often lifelines.

Medicaid is one example. Most children from the foster care system come with full Medicaid benefits, and those benefits are not based on the parents’ income. Children without those benefits must be placed on their parents’ insurance policies. That’s great when it works, when the deductibles are manageable, and if the parents do not lose their jobs.

Most children from the foster care system are able to access subsidy payments, money that adoptive parents can use for supports they otherwise couldn’t afford. Without the help provided me from social services, my bathroom would not be accessible for Ronnie.

Again, these are just example, and are truly just my observations. I KNOW adoptions of all types can work and work well, and the bottom line is, ALL children deserve a loving family.

I tip my hat to all the families that have been built through adoption, adoption of any sort.


HennHouse said...

I love your series on adoption... You should submit some of these posts to Adoption Today magazine.

Linda Meikle said...

Thanks for all the great information on different kinds of adoption. I was adopted from an orphanage as a ward of the state when my parents abandoned me. My husband was adopted after his mother left him on the doorstep of a church. He adopted two children who were wards of the state. My mother (in later years) gave up her last child for adoption terminating all rights. And so it goes...