Saturday, April 16, 2011

Training Day 1

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom.
Luke 6:20

Facts and Figures
On September 11, 2010 I began my first foster to adopt class. The irony has not been lost on me. In fact there were many things going on that day. My fathers birthday is 9/11 and also that day there was a major city out reach involving our church and others to one of the poorest parks in L.A. Starting the journey of adoption on a day many regard as one of the most tragic days in history had a deep impact on me. God's timing is never off He weaves our story into a beautiful tapestry.
The first day of class we were asked a question. What would your fantasy child be/look like? The director made us all draw out what we thought of when we saw ourselves with a child. Many people drew happy pictures of happy families, children that were normal with normal histories/lives. I don't remember what I drew exactly but I knew that entering into this program I wasn't going to get a picture perfect child and I was looking forward to that. I had in mind a drug baby or one that was severely neglected because I knew that God was the equation that wasn't factored into the rest of everyone's mindset. I knew He could heal, repair, and rescue whatever came my way. After many people described their picture perfect child the director told everyone to tear up their pictures because that was not what we were going to be getting.
By definition children who are placed in foster care are victims of a crime. Think about that...these children have to go through something really tragic to end up in the custody of a stranger. That's a rough way to start your life, with a curse already labeled and declared over you.
There are 4 kinds of adoption: Foster Adoption, Traditional Adoption, Kin or Relative Adoption, and Foster Care. Foster Adoption is the program I'm in basically it's this, the child that is placed with you is a foster child until parental rights are terminated at which time that child becomes adoptable. Then when adoptable, you must still go through the process of adoption to finalize legal transference of parental rights. Meanwhile the child is in the "Foster Adoption" home. The deal with this program is that there is a real chance that the child that is placed in your home could be given back to their parents, relative, or family friend. Basically the foster parent is the last tier of people that the child goes through before landing in a permanent home.
The Traditional Adoption is self explanatory but basically it's where children are already adoptable and so there's just the adoption process that needs to be walked through. Kin or Relative Adoption is where if the parent of the child is unable to care for them then the courts look to relatives that maybe able to adopt the child, given they complete the paperwork and classes required of them. Then there's just Foster Care, which is temporary placement of a child. It is typical for foster parents to adopt children who have been with them some for many years however there are foster parents who don't keep the children that are placed with them. Usually children who are placed in foster homes wait for a couple years until the parental rights are terminated or they are given back to their parents. Then at that point they are either adopted or in the custody of their birth parents. The agency that I'm with doesn't believe in shuttling children around from home to home. They at most will move the child twice but do many checks to make the home as permanent as possible.
When we learned that we were not going to get placed with the "child of our dreams" I think that people in the class got more determined to love. It really comes down to that in the end. Other things that they talked about in the first class was what we all wanted. Some wanted older children others wanted infants. What I found interesting about this was that the director said that there was a great need for people to take in infants. The reason being was that older children were getting placed because they spent most of the day in school where as infants needed a lot more care so there weren't enough houses that could take in babies. That was such a shock to me because I figured that the opposite was true. We've heard for years that older children are shuffled around and need homes but you never hear about the infants. The reason that I wanted an infant was first because I love babies but second because the standard is that children 3 and older have to have their own bedroom. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment and I have a room mate so I needed to get a child that I could keep in my room with me. My bedroom is quiet large so a large crib, rocker, and full sized bed fit easily without it feeling cramped. The entire process from foster care to finished adoption is estimated to take about 2 years. People getting into this process have to realize that this isn't just a hop-skip and jump to having the adoption finalized. The Social Worker told me that it was good that it took a long time because if it didn't it would be easy for the government to take children away from their homes without due process. So while it seems at times to be a pain the process has a purpose and that purpose is re-unification. I will have a key below defining these terms so that you can understand what all these terms reference. Here's the basic breakdown to the court process:

The child is pulled from the home>within 48hrs a petition is filed on behalf of the child>there's an initial hearing the same day or the next court day.
15 days later there's a Jurisdiction hearing>10 days after that there's a disposition hearing (this is where they grant re-unification services 90% of the time the other 10% have their services denied.
If services are granted it means that the state will try everything to help the birth parents get their life on track so that they can get their child/children back. They will grant them drug treatment, supervised visitations (usually it's 3 times a week up to 2 hours a visit), job training ect. Whatever the parent needs to get their life on track to be able to support and raise a child. The judges of late have been granting these 3 times a week visits for 2 hours per visit on purpose because they want to parent to feel the burden of taking care of a child. If they can't make those meetings then how can they be a full time parent. That's the logic behind that, on the other hand the foster parent is required to make sure that the child is at the planned meetings. While the foster parent doesn't have to monitor the meetings they have to make sure to make the time available to the birth parents.
These services are granted for 6 months after which there's a court date to review the last 6 months if the birth parent has completed all that was required of them by the court and has proven that they can handle being a responsible adult or parent the court will move to bringing the child back into the birth parents home. If the parent has not shown any effort in trying to get their child/children back then the court can do one of 2 things. The judge can rule that the services be terminated and they are moving towards terminating parental rights or they can grant them 3-6 more months of services and give them a second chance.
Lets say that the re-unification services were terminated at this hearing, then the birth parent has 120 days to contest the court and process. Which means that if the birth parent files a petition then the child goes back into "foster care." If the birth parent doesn't file then the child is technically in a pre-adoption interim. Meaning that they are adoptable but won't be able to be adopted fully until the parental termination hearing happens. A 366.26 hearing is granted, which is code for the parental termination hearing. Once the date of that is set then the parents who want to adopt the child move towards that goal and fill the appropriate paperwork ect.
Once parental rights are terminated then the adoption process starts. There is no guarantees ever. There are no set time frames or standard outcomes, every case is different. Many things can happen along the way, all judges are different in how they see the cases and what they deem fair.
This whole journey for whoever goes through it is very emotional. There are very few rights given to the foster to adopt parents. The advice is to attend the later hearings to show your presence and to prove you really want this child. As a perspective parent being in the court room proves your dedication and it shows the court that you care about the future of this child. It makes the judge put a face to the name on the paper. While this process is so steeped in law, the reality of walking it out is so different, there are real people attached to all the legal paperwork.
Another thing I found interesting was that even if there's a safe surrendered baby or a mother who was willing to sign over parental rights they still had to go through a majority of this process. The birth parent could never show up to one court hearing and still get these services granted. There's so much to this process but it's so fascinating once you're inside of it to see how our Nation really fight for the best for our kids. I know the news really demonizes the system but really there are people who care and lay down their lives for this.

Below is a link to the flow chart of the court system:

Below is a link to Children's Bureau:

Key Terms to know:

Foster to Adopt- Child is still in foster care but the goal is adoption.

Birth parents- the parents who birthed the child in foster care

Re-unification services- Services granted by the court to help the birth parents get their lives on track to be able to reunify with their children.

Fast Track- Is usually applied to children 0-3 who are taken from birth parents, because of the circumstances of the case the court is only obligated to grant 6 months of services after that they move quickly to terminating parental rights.

Home study- A report written up by the social worker stating that the house that the child is placed in has met all the requirements. The report also includes a personal history of the foster to adopt parent.

Thoughts and Journal Entries
July 2010-September 2010

Emotionally it's been a roller coaster since deciding to move in on being a foster to adopt mom. My roommate that I lived in the same room with moved out in August giving me the green light to move ahead with my dream. How I'm going to financially survive this I don't know but God knows all my needs and this is His heart. So far I've filled out the paperwork and I had the first social worker visit the 10th of September right before my first class. She seems very nice I have a sneaky suspicion that she's a believer but they can't tell you that. The initial interview went well, she has to make 2 more visits and then she will finish my home study.
She looked around the apartment and told me the safety issues that I had to fix, hanging a mirror, decals on the glass door, safety locks for the cabinets, a hook for the blind cords, fire extinguisher, ect. Actually it's all doable I thought it was going to be a lot more. Some of my friends threw me a baby shower right after my first foster class. I got a lot of things but it's hard to know what I'm really going to need who knows how old she will be or what her exact needs are. I did get this amazing crib that has a changing table attached I'm so excited about it it's exactly what I wanted. It's awesome to have such support. I don't know how people truly feel about my journey but I do know that outwardly I'm getting a lot of support. This is what the Kingdom's about, being radical can look all sorts of ways but to me this is it. Not only learning to love but leaving a legacy of love.
The Lord keeps impressing on me that I'm getting a girl and I can't stop looking at pink everything. Passing the baby section in Target is not an option any more I have to stop and look. What will I need what will I be able to get? Every time I'm in the store I buy one baby thing to keep me motivated in moving forward with it. I know that it's going to be worth it in the end.
As I pray for this little one that's coming my way I just feel so much destiny on this child. She's a leader and so full of love and justice. Her life is going to be a testimony to many people and she's going to change history. Whether I have her forever or just get to care for her for a moment she's going to be marked by heaven, for encounter. It's truly not about me, it's about His story for her life and I get to just ride along. I'm truly humbled by the love of the Father for this little one that may not even be alive right now. Before she was even born He knew and predestined her for amazing is that?

Please leave comments or questions I would love to answer them. If you would like to support us on this journey there's a button at the top where you can donate. This blog is to educate the Body of Christ on adoption in the States and stir up people who are passionate about adoption to take action. Be inspired!

No comments:

Post a Comment