Monday, September 25, 2006

Amount of Time from TPR to Placement

What are at least three steps that could be taken or changes that need to be made in order to speed up the time it takes for a child to get from the termination of their parental rights to the placement in an adoptive home?

10 Comments:

Blogger PKP said...

I can't wait to see some proposed solutions to this.

I know some states don't terminate parental rights until an adoptive family is found but I don't think it makes the process go any faster. Certainly the reporting from those states would show a shorter time from termination of parental rights to placement, but not necessarily reflect a timely placement.

Having some uniform rules from state to state would seem to be helpful to facilitate placements--but I doubt having the federal government for oversight would be beneficial. I know there was significant opposition to federal involvement with ICPC regulations.

What are the opinions as to what causes the delays in placement after termination of parental rights? Is it in finding the adoptive family or is it the time it takes to complete all the necessary paperwork?

I know some states will photolist a child that is not yet "legally free". I'm not sure how the courts and agencies feel about legal risk placements, and I doubt potential adoptive families are well acquainted with the process.

I look forward to reading some possible solutions.

11:14 AM  
Blogger michelle said...

I don't know if that needs to be sped up in all cases. Or at least after matching in some cases.

For us, going slow was part of the success. We were lucky to have our child with great foster parents which allowed us to do six or seven weeks worth of visits. We visited neutral sites, then she had weekend visits with us.

Her transition was still hard but at least she was in settings she was generally familiar with and knew us some.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Gina, TX adoption worker, writes:

One of the steps would be that the Subcare Worker transfer the case in a timely manner to the Adoption Prep Worker without surprises such as the adoptive family having a load of criminal history, serious mental health issues.....

Second, would be the private agency having the home studies update, and whatever else they do without us having to pull teeth to get what we need.

Third, not having a Judge that has to approve an adoptive placement before we can do ICPCs and other things that need to be done. It is only one Judge, but it is an attempt to keep kids out of single parent and gay and lesbian homes.

What it comes down to is everyone doing their jobs instead of letting cases idle.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Deborah Hage:

Parental rights need to be terminated much more quickly. Instead of the birth parents having numerous opportunities to refrain from drugs, take parenting classes, etc, parental rights should be terminated after two times of placing the child back in the home and the placement failing again. If the child must be removed from the home three times, the third time is permanent. The child’s legal status then must be finalized within months, instead of years, so the child is free for adoption. Case workers, parents and agencies would all gain more faith in a system that worked to guarantee the rights of the child to an abuse free home. There would be less turn over of workers who are presently discouraged to see all the work they invest in a child undone by those whose primary concern is parental rights, not children’s rights. Parents would become more invested in the US foster care system and be less likely to go abroad to adopt a child that they mistakenly perceive to be more legally free and more emotionally and mentally healthy. International adoption has its place and the children in orphanages in other countries have a need to be adopted as well, however, the system is now tilted so that families either do not adopt or they bankrupt themselves to adopt internationally. Adoptive parents are currently paying taxes to a system that works against the rights of their potential children.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Kate, an adoptive parent, wirtes:

Strange question, from my point of view. I was a foster parent who adopted 6 of my foster children. #1 had already had TPR, was placed in my home, & we finalized 2 years later.
#2 placed in my home at birth, TPR done at 1 year old, adoption finalized 18 months old.
#3 had TPR done at age 5, was placed in the same foster home until age 10 and they intended to adopt, but never got all their paperwork together, finally the county got exasperated & removed her, placed her in a home that already had an approved homestudy (mine), & we finalized 9 months later.
#4 had TPR at age 3, placed in adoptive home that disrupted; he was placed with me at age 4 and (believe it or not) we DID NOT HAVE A CURRENT ADOPTIVE HOMESTUDY AND THE COUNTY DID NOT REQUIRE US TO GET ONE...we finalized when he was 5. (My belief is, due to the heavy-duty mental health problems/criminal insanity of both parents, the county REALLY wanted to get him off their hands while he was still little and cute.)
#5 was placed with us before the TPR was done; her full sibling (#6) was placed with us a year later. After 3 years, the TPR was done, & we finalized #5 a month later. But due to an error on the social worker's part (she forgot to add #6 to the homestudy, even though she said/thought she did), we had to start over and have a NEW homestudy done for #6, which took an additional 11 months to complete.
My answer may seem off-topic, but it really isn't. In my experience the TPR isn't really the issue. It certainly isn't an issue for the child, who wants to be in a loving home and is not so concerned with the legal mumbo-jumbo. I think the key is: don't place a child in an unsuitable home, and don't remove a child from a good home. While it is impossible for a social worker to predict with 100% accuracy which children will return to birthfamilies and which will be available for adoption, social workers should strive to place children in a foster home where, if need be, they can stay until age 18. Except in cases where it is pretty much a sure thing that the child will go home (example: Mom in prison for 3 months), foster parents should have to meet the same standards as adoptive parents, and the same homestudy should be good for fostering, guardianship, & adoption, although the social worker should thoroughly explain the differences to the parents. Then, if a TPR is to be done, the foster parents should get to decide whether they want to adopt or not. If they decline, and/or the child wants to move and the social worker feels it is in everyone's best interest to move the child, a suitable adoptive home should be found ASAP, regardless of whether or not the TPR has actually been done.
By putting children in "holding tanks" (temporary homes) for the sole purpose of waiting until the TPR goes through, you are doing a lot of unnecessary moving of children, wasting time and money and disrupting families. For those potential adoptive families who are afraid to let a child move in until the TPR goes through, I suggest you examine exactly what you are afraid of, and exactly why you want to adopt. Do you think parenting is a sure thing? Are you absolutely certain your child won't get hit by a car and die before age 18? This would be rare, but not impossible. Once the court has decided on a plan of TPR, it is rare (though not impossible) that the TPR will be reversed or won't happen. Take a chance! Would you rather get your child at age 4, or wait until he's 6 and all the legal hassles are resolved...and you've missed two years of his life, during which he may have experienced more moves, more trauma?
The bottom line, in my experience, is that court actions (TPR, finalization) made me feel RELIEVED. But actually bringing my child home made me feel HAPPY. I wouldn't trade that feeling for all the legal security in the world.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Alissa, Adoption Recruiter in Florida says:

One thing that could be done is to identify and investigate potential resources during TPR trial, instead of waiting until 30 days after the TPR and appeal period have passed. Working extensively with the child to prepare them as much as possible would be another step that could be done, as getting over the reality that they are never going home to their biological parents takes quite awhile to come to terms with.
Last, but not least, getting the signed TPR order the day it is signed, rather than having to wait for 4-6 weeks for it to arrive from the child welfare attorneys shortens the time period significantly!

6:16 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Jennifer, another TX adoption worker, thinks:

1) More CPS staff- it takes too long to transfer a case to an adoption unit because caseloads are too high.
2) Start adoption recruitment for a child prior to termination if it appears that rights will definately be terminated.
3) Look for legal risk foster homes for children.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Sbadeau said...

I believe that there are both "little steps" and "big steps" that need to happen in order to streamline every stage of a child's journey through the child welfare system from first point of contact, until successful stability in a permanent home - whether through reunification, permanent legal guardianship (often with relatives) or adoption.

"Little steps" are things that individuals and local agencies and courts can do on their own, whiel the "big steps" are system reform efforts that will require advocacy, leadership and frequently legislative changes.

In terms of the little steps, many are summed up in some material I have written called "5 Key Questions". These are basic questions that EVERYONE involved in a child's life must ask - repeatedly - and then really work together on finding and implementing the answers. These questions, in a nutshell are:
1. "What would it take?" This means, never accepting "no" for an answer, and when confronted with problems taking a proactive role to solve the problem, rather than saying "well, it can't be done". This applies to everything from accepting a gay adoptive parent to placing across state lines, to smaller things like replacing a lost document.

2. "What can we try that we have tried before?" Too often, once something is tried, like asking a former foster family if they would be interested in adopting a child, or featuring a child on a photolisting - and it "didn't work", it is never tried again. And yet, people change, circumstances change and it is critical to keep trying strategies again and again.

3. Conversely, "What can we try that we have never tried before?" Such as contacting the local fire department for help in finding a forever family for a child with a history of setting fires! Be creative, think outside the box.

4. What can we do concurrently? We need to stop using a "one thing at a time" approach to child welfare services. Children's lives are at stake. The clock moves too quickly for us to work on only one strategy at once. Therefore, we need a team approach and the willingness and ability to do many things at once.

5. Finally, and in my view most importantly, "How can we involve the youth him or herself in a meaningful and significant way in developing and implementing his/her own permanency plan." When this is done, adoptions and other forms of permanence move along a lot more quickly.

"Big Steps" - bigger picture items are more in the system reform category - A more sensible financing structure for child welfare services; more funds for prevention, post adoption and other services, better coordination between the courts and child welfare agencies as well as the schools, mental health systems, etc. Smaller caseloads for workers, better training for ALL involved - from caseworkers to supervisors, to lawyers and judges. These are just a few, many of them are captured in the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care report.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Laura from Washington comments:

Our region has a foster to adopt program of families who take children with low legal risk. Low legal risk means that the relatives have all been exhausted and the history of the parent(s) indicates that the child may in fact become legally free in the future. The family who takes the child is a licensed foster family who is also certified for adoption (unified home study). The child is matched into a family with the goal that if and when the child becomes legally free, that family will become the adoptive family. We match carefully up front since we are looking for a potential “forever family.” This program has reduced the number of moves a foster child makes and insures that we get to adoption much faster than in the past. Many of the children in the program are placed as babies into their foster/adopt home. Once termination is complete, the same family is ready to adopt—the hard part (home study) is already done. Right now, we achieve adoption within two to three months of the child becoming legally free! We also provide monthly trainings, support groups, and many services to sustain the placement and adoption. It is a wonderful community of families who support each other and work together to help each other. Many of our children in the program have only been in one foster home and that home in turn becomes their adoptive home. Most families stay in the program post-adoption to continue the training and camaraderie and often to take another child or the sibling of the child they have already adopted.

2:59 PM  
Blogger michelle said...

To Laura from Washington - we adopted in NC through a program just like that. It really works!

1:53 PM  

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