Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to adopt from a disruption

Recently there was an article on Reuters discussing adopted children being "re-homed". The clearly not objective reporter described the multitude of ways adopted children go to new families, whether through disruption, dissolution, or unethical/illegal/dangerous methods.

The article was heavy on blame and snark towards adoptive parents. While the writer thoroughly described the hell children experience, she spent almost no time on legal ways to "re-home" a child.

Since we adopted Genea from a dissolution, I'm going to describe our process. We didn't know what we were doing or how to proceed but fortunately people around us did. While I know disruption is a super-hot topic I want to stress that whether doing such is acceptable is NOT the purpose of this post. Lots of places on the internet where you can argue your socks off on that issue. Go there if you want to judge.

Legally, a "disruption" is when parents decide to stop the adoption process before finalization. Typically the child has already been placed in the family home with the goal of adoption. Most states have a waiting period before an adoption is final and it's during this time that a disruption can happen. Courts are not involved. The child would be removed from the home by the placing agency and presumably go back into a waiting status.

"Dissolution" is the legal term used after a child's adoption has been finalized. All the hoops have been jumped through and all papers signed. The child is in the home, names have been changed, birth certificate altered. The adoptive parents end legal ties with the child, they terminate their parental rights.

 Many people, myself included, use the word "disruption" to describe both.

The couple who originally adopted Genea from Ukraine came to the clinic, where I worked, for a psychiatric evaluation and therapy. That's how we became aware of her. The parents made it known they were searching for another family. There is no law on how new parents find a child to adopt. Someone thought the original parents had to go to an agency first and the agency would evenly distribute Genea's information across their list of potential adopters where she met their criteria. That is one way to do it but not required. They could have advertised her on a Yahoo message board and it would not be a problem. We let ourselves be known as people who were interested and the parents agreed to select us as the new parents. This part did not involve any professionals or legal wrangling.

The Husband and I contacted an adoption agency we found in the phone book. Actually, we contacted a few but only one called us back so that's who got our money. It was on us to select and contract with an agency, but the caseworker worked with both families.

The original parents could have contacted the agency themselves and offered Genea for general re-adoption. However, our case worker told us they would not have accepted her because of Genea's intense medical needs. It seems an agency can pick and choose what clients they take based on the needs of the child, which surprised me.

At any rate, we signed a ton of papers and received several huge packets of information. For our purposes most of the information was hopelessly outdated. We started supervised visits with Genea while we began the paperwork.

The paperwork! Oh my unholy hell. First, we had to get approved as a foster home. That's how they do it in Wisconsin. That had to be official before she could move in. In the meantime, we proceeded with the adoption process as well. Much of it overlapped, background clearances, inspections, pet vaccinations etc. The agency did our Home Study which is my opinion is grossly more expensive than it should be. 3 or 4 one-hour long visits with the case worker where she asked tons of silly, irrelevant questions and then wrote up a lengthy report. Note that the worker told us outright much of the questions were designed to get US thinking about how we wanted to raise children. Whatever.

At the same time, we were doing short little visits with Genea at the clinic where I worked. A therapist watched on as The Husband, Teena and I tried to have fun with her while knowing someone was staring at us and judging every move. They extended the length of time and frequency over several weeks until we started some home visits. Those then progressed to over-night visits.

During the same period we were doing our Parent Education time. I think it was 16 hours. The agency had given us a form to follow and we did, only to find out it was the wrong form and guess what? Outdated. Ugh. I hit up Amazon and made my own reading list. We self-educated. We did not realize at the time the depth of this foreshadowing.

Moving right along, we had to hire a lawyer to manage all the court related stuff. I was told it is customary for the original parents to help financially and usually they will pay half of the lawyer fee since the lawyer will also work with them. However, it was stressed, the lawyer will not work FOR them. In our case, he met with them a few times to help prepare them for the questions at the termination hearing. When I suggested they could chip in with some other stuff, like agency costs, the caseworker said "it's not done that way".

(personally, once I found out the costs of all this stuff I thought they should pay for a lot more but it was definitely not that way)

After about 3 months-give or take a few weeks- Genea moved in with all her stuff for good. She was technically a foster child with us and the original parents still had all their rights. The agency was responsible for her though, and we had to go through them for doctors appointments, travel, etc. It was a strange time because the other parents could change their minds and so we were sort of at their mercy. They wanted phone calls and up dates and I was okay with that. However, the mom asked once for me to take Genea to the park to play and she would watch her from her car. I understood why she was asking, and I understood I was required to do it. But I said absolutely not. We are not a circus act and if you want to push this I will have her packed and waiting for you in the driveway, you can pick her up and take her back. She did not ask again but our little phone calls, which were already tense, took a turn for the worse.

(seriously, there was no way I was going to write this without a load of my personal opinions stuffed in the corners. I am not a journalist ethically required to be objective).

In the middle of all this, the previous adoptive grandparents decided to intervene. They hired their own attorney. It was never fully clear to me what they wanted. It seemed maybe to stop the proceedings? They suggested other relatives to adopt her, wanted to maintain contact with Genea but adopting her themselves was only vaguely mentioned. While there are no grandparent rights, somehow the adoption agency and our lawyer thought they should be "heard". That if we didn't "hear" them, it could cause problems later. We paid our lawyer to respond to their lawyer, and accepted a bizarre phone call from them. They were unable to change anything.

Genea was living with us full time for 3 months before the termination hearing happened. This is where the original parents have all their parental rights severed and it's as if their adoption never happened- legally that is. Whew it was rough! They both had to testify in front of a judge, describe their adoption process and why they felt they could not keep her. Our lawyer handled all the questioning. I don't recall if we were required to attend but we did so they could point us out as the new parents. In theory, the judge would be more likely to authorize the termination if she had another home to go to, because he could have denied it.  Genea then became a ward of the state and we continued as foster parents, supervised by the adoption agency.

Note that while we were foster parents, we were not paid any monthly rate. No clothing reimbursement or whatever else foster parents get in such small quantities. There is some law in this state (maybe others) that if you have a foster child who you are going to adopt you must then re-pay the state all the money received while fostering.

Up until this point, Genea had health insurance through the original parents. Only when they were terminated were we required to put her on our insurance. I'm sure someone knows how that all works, but it's not me. She was still a foster child with us, not legally "ours", but I put her on our insurance anyway and no one freaked out. Once we finalized, she became eligible for MA.

So that's about it! We had a six month wait- and- see period where she had to be living with us full time and then we were free to finalize. We went to the courthouse after the six months had passed to request the date and get it assigned to a judge. More paperwork. Then, we did it. And after aaaaaall that, soooooo much time and energy and paperwork and money and redundancies, the finalization hearing took all of 5 minutes.

Questions? Pleasant non-judgey comments?








8 comments:

  1. I have been watching this as they are changing the laws in my state. I have been wondering if this is a good or bad things for the kids and for the adoptive parents. I understand the law makers are trying to protect children. However, it seems to just say you can't transfer custody of a child to a non relative (I am not sure what all other that that) but it does not put any helps in place for struggling families.I wonder, will this discourage adoption in general? Will this keep children in unhealthy families? Will it keep them from going to families where they can do much better? I just don't know if it is a good or bad thing. I am not an adoptive parent I just like to learn about things. My husband did a step-parent adoption with my son. It was crazy the amount of paper work, our homestudy was not hard. But a ton of time and paperwork for 15 minutes in front of the judge.

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  2. There are some new laws being talked about here too. I think the biggest problem is how much goes unchecked when someone independently moves a child to a new home. Pedophiles and other people who could never adopt legally can easily get ahold of a child. Another huge problem is how little there is for an adoptive family who needs help. Just something as simple as having a good psychologist has been an immense help for us, but it took me 4 years, and many mistakes, to find her.
    I just hope any new laws about "rehoming" are developed by people who know adoption, or they could make it worse.

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  3. Es, it just sounds nuts. I thought it would be much simpler and much more informal. Could you have done this without an agency--as a private adoption?

    And, yes--I think that the first family ought to have at least paid for half of the costs.

    No matter, though. I'm just glad she's HOME.

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    Replies
    1. Nope, not really. It was the only legal way to do it. I thought it would be much more simple too! Yep, she's here now, so that's the good part :)

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    2. oops, that's not what I meant to say! There are other legal ways to adopt, they just might be shady or less ethical, as I understand it.

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  4. You know that we also adopted from a disruption. It was all legal and above-board. Even CPS gave their blessings. I hope that all the negative press doesn't shut down this avenue for parents who end up in over their heads.
    Thanks for your comments about letting school handle school. I don't know why I never thought of that! He loves the attention, good or bad. I guess i just always felt guilty for having 'that kid'. You know, the one who has their desk pushed up against the teachers desk. All three of my older kids have been the exceptional kids in their classes. The one the teacher adores because they are so smart and well behaved. At least the school knows I am not the problem! LOL!

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  5. Our second daughter came to us after she had two disrupted placements so not quite your situation at all. But more point is that I am glad that there is a mechanism available for parents who need to to disrupt - even if it sounds like a maddeningly long involved process. Because it gives these children a second chance at a family. And also these disruptions allowed your and my daughter to come to the homes that they were meant to be in.

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    Replies
    1. I gotta get the hang of moderated comments! YES! You are right! As hard as it is, it's better than being in a home where the child is unwanted. It actually wasn't hard at all, just super time consuming.

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