After our first failed adoption attempt I admit that I was a little bit down at first. I had been excited about the possibility of meeting these children, becoming their mom, and getting them involved in everything from school to extra-curriculars. Even if I had known the reason why the case had been pulled and the adoption process (early stages) had ended it wouldn’t have changed my feelings or anything else. Ultimately I just hoped the kids were where they needed to be: safe, loved, and provided for. Even with a sad outcome for us, the whole process did provide insights we could learn from and share.
Our caseworker was sad that she couldn’t provide us with a clear answer of what happened with the kids but was glad that our failed attempt didn’t make us angry with the system. After a good long conversation I found out a few things that I am sure not everyone is privy to when working directly through the state. Here are some bits of advice (insights) our caseworker gave us, and other state employees have backed up:
- Be organized
- Be patient
- Don’t give up
Without any further explanation it could seem as if this advice is a bit weak, insignificant or unimportant. Much like the system, you need to look at it as pieces of a puzzle. On their own they are each just as important and when put together they make a very clear picture.
Being organized seems like basic advice for the success of any project. In terms of working with the child-welfare system, I can not stress this enough.
Enter every case with a notebook and pen at the ready. I find it useful to have a portable file folder where I can keep paperwork, a notebook and a pen or pencil.
Create a folder within your email just for the children/case you are interested in. Aside from holding onto all documentation and emails that come in, email yourself other important paperwork you want to be able to access quickly. Rent-a-Dad also advocates using the cloud but not everyone (me included) is as computer savvy as him.
When sending emails, make sure everyone that needs to be privy to the information is included in the CC line. In our case that meant the child’s caseworker, his boss, our caseworker and her boss as well as both Rent-a-Dad and I. This way everyone gets the information the instant it is sent instead of piecemeal or not at all.
Being organized not only helps keep a case moving along but it shows up as proof of how serious you are about a case.
Traversing the child-welfare system is complicated and frustrating for everyone, especially the employees who often have their hands tied by the judicial system.
The process for adopting from the state is sometimes easier for foster parents who are adopting their foster children. Sometimes that process takes longer than any other adoption process. No two cases are exactly alike so you can never know how long a case may take. If you are a foster parent, you may foster dozens of children before you actually adopt.
Each state moves at its own pace and not the one we would like. Being frustrated by the slowness of the process is understandable. Strongly voicing this displeasure in negative ways makes the state wonder if there are any unsavory reasons this person is pursuing adoption. That can slow the process down further or give cause for the system to terminate the adoption process.
Our caseworker reminded me that very impatient people make caseworkers nervous and throw up red flags in the system.
While each state is obligated by the same basic rules, reunification or severing parental rights within eighteen months, each state can at its discretion move faster or slower on each case.
Caseworkers are overloaded with cases and foster parents might be stretched thin on their own resources. This can mean that the Child and Family Team for a child’s case can be hard to reach and get information from. There is a balance between being patient and not giving up.
Depending on the information, it is usual to not hear from a caseworker about an adoption case for several days. Don’t let several weeks or a month pass as that might show the caseworker a lack of interest so they may then pursue other avenues and assume you are no longer interested.
Don’t Give Up
This applies to the children/case you are interested in as well as in the process all together if the case should fall through.
Our caseworker reminded me that there is a fine line between being patient and pushing for success. Treading that line and knowing which side is better to be on takes experience.
Foster parents do have a higher success rate of adopting through the child-welfare system because they have gained experience of how that system works.
Even if you are not a foster parent, don’t give up! Don’t let the complications of an imperfect system drive you away from reaching your dream and providing a safe, loving home to a needing child. Reach out to friends who have traversed the system and consult adoption website communities for advice.
If an adoption attempt is cut short, always try one more phone call or email to the caseworker for information before admitting that you may not ever get a reason why the child is no longer available for adoption.
If you are truly interested in adopting keep these details (insights) in mind:
Get a Home study
While no adoption can move forward without one, do some research to find out whether it makes sense to go through the state or a private agency. Some states are fine with home studies conducted by another state. Private agencies may request a home study be completed not by the state but rather by their agency or another private agency.
If you have been casually looking at adoption sites and have identified a child or children through a state site there are multiple steps you must take. First you need to contact the state agency with the case number. Once the state is aware of you, they will ask for information about you, your family, and if you have had a home study completed.
If you contact a state agency interested about a case but don’t have a home study, your home will not seriously be considered until that process is completed. In the meantime those who show similar interest in a child and have a completed home study will be considered before you. This may sound unfair but keep in mind no adoption is about just you. No case will be put on hold just because you are interested. After all what if you changed your mind? The top goals are for this child to be in the system for as little time as possible and to be placed with a forever family that is as good of a fit as the state can find.
Private Agency VS State Adoption
A lot of your success story, and time spent, depends on what you want from this experience.
Private agencies will provide hand holding through the entire process. The downside is that this service can be quite costly. A private agency will look through all the children that fit your criteria, make contact and find out if parental legal ties have been severed all before you find out his/her existence. Once a match us found and you have been notified, then the agency helps with all of the necessary details.
I have had friends say that going through a private agency ensures that an adoption will happen.
Going through the state usually means minimal costs and some of those are refundable or tax deductible. The state has minimal resources so you need to be driven, organized and oddly enough patient as you work with the system.
The older the child the easier the adoption process generally is. There tend to be more problems when seeking to adopt an infant than with an older child. Private agencies have higher success rates with infant adoption because they are working directly with pregnant women who are considering adoption as an option for their child. Babies in state custody are generally more sought after by family and friends over older children.
Whether you are going through a private agency or the state the process is much the same. The length of time differs from case to case. There is no such thing as always having an easy adoption. Some people are lucky with the adoption process moving quickly. Sometimes how fast the process moves is really just about one’s perception of time.
Just remember each child is worth the wait and adoptions take time.
If you have not already read our post on Adoption Pitfalls I hope you can make the time to rectify that soon! Adoptuskids and American Adoptions also provide good adoption insights and research into the adoption process as it is today.