This is part 2 of the previous post. Here are some questions that I have gotten as a response to my answer below. Please rememeber that these answers are from experience, and from my state. Each state may be different.
I really feel as though when you go through things in life (Infertility, miscarriage, adoption), you really should be as educated as possible and then pass that info to others.
Again, it is pretty long.
1. How did you get all of this info? Like who did you contact to get all of this going? Is it DYFS? Or some other social services agency? Foster Care was something that I was already kind of familar with - my neighbor growing up took in over a 100 foster kids over the years. That, and my current neighbor actually works for DYFS. Once we decided that it was something worth considering, I spoke to her. And then there was a month long class that we had to take, that filled in a lot of the blanks. I also ask a lot of questions at class.
But, in general, you would contact your local DYFS office and tell them you are interested in fost/adopt. You should be able to find the number in your local phone book, but I would be happy to give you the number of my worker, she might be able to get you in touch with someone in your county. There is usually a info seminar every once in a while (depending on county), and at that time you would decide if you want to fill out an application.
It can work a few different ways, you can fill out a basic app and then get a worker assigned to you. Or, the worker may come to your house first to talk about some questions and general info, and then you fill out an app.
Either way, once the intial apps are completed, the fun begins. You are assigned a worker (called a resource worker) who comes to your house several times. The first is for a "couple" interview and general inspection of your home. I say general because they are really looking for major violations at this point, and to make sure that you have a space for a child.
At this point, you will probably be given lots more paperwork, which will have all the authorizations for all your reference checks - there are a lot. You need 3 personal references (a friend of over 10 years, a neighbor, and a reference from an organization - like a church, or club, or even a doc). Then you have employment references, medical references, police checks from all towns that you have lived in for the past 5 years, federal finger print request....I am sure there are more, but that is all I can think of right now.
You will also have to complete a full financial disclosure, which details all your income, debt, financial responsibilities, etc - they just want to make sure you make enough to support yourself (not the child)
There will be other paperwork also - like a full 20something page questionaire that you and your husband have to fill out. It get VERY personal and sometimes asks very detailed questions. Just be honest and it should not be an issue
After lots more paperwork, there will be separate interviews - one for each of you. Colin had to have a separate one as well. Again, no big deal.
At some time, you will be given the dates of training class - it only happens a few times per year in each county, so if you are lucky, you will get right in - we got lucky in this regards. You can always go out of county, if a date suits you better.
Our worker came to our house one last time (in addition to the above) to really go through the house. She wanted to make sure that we would pass when the state licensing dept came to do the final inspection. So, I guess it was a total of 4 or 5 visits
2. As you mentioned...what are the costs involved? To be totally honest, the cost is ZERO. Yup, that is right. There is no cost at all to become licensed. The only thing we had to pay for so far was our physicals - $100 a piece because our doc would not code it as a regular physical. I submitted the receipt to my insurance and just waiting for reimbursment. Even if the case moves towards adoption, there is no required cost. Yes, you can CHOOSE to hire your own attorney, but unless you have a super unique case, most of the times it would not be necessary. The child is assigned their own attorney through the "system"
Now - remember, these kids are foster kids and therefore the state pays you for their care (Totally not why we are doing it, but it is an added bonus). Currently, the stipend for a child in the range of 0-5 is $$$$ a month plus about $ for clothes. So, about $$$ a month, per child. This is the standard rate for "standard" children. If the child has minor special needs, then the rate is increased. And the older the child, the higher the rate. I don't know the whole amount, becasue I am only open for up to 5 years old.
In addition to this payment, the child is enrolled in Medicad (no cost to you), is eligible for WIC (formula, milk, certain grocery items) which is no cost to you. And DYFS will pay for childcare if both of you work.
One thing we did NOT realize is that certain children are eligible to receive the stipend even after an adoption takes place. This happens if the child is considered special needs. Don't let special needs scare you - is is VERY loose defination. But, all african american children are considered special needs. All sibling groups are considered special needs. Sometimes even a child that has asthma or alergies are considered special needs. The stipend would continue until they are 18 years old.
And an added bonus - each foster child that resides in your home for more than 6 months and 1 day can be claimed as a dependent on your taxes. This then comes with deductions and tax credits.
Also, if you adopt, and that child is considered special needs (aka receives the stipend), they you are eligible for the FULL adoption tax credit of about $11,000. Yes, you are eligible for the full credit even if you did not pay a penny. Again, this is only the case if your child falls into the state defination of "special needs", but like I stated before, this is very loosely defined.
3. Does DYFS or some social worker do a home study of us? Kinda answered this one under #1 - I did not read all the questions first LOL. Again, there is no cost to the homestudy. What most people don't realize is the home study includes all the background stuff and the home inspection.
4. What do you think the odds are of getting placement with a child under two? Well, you can request that you only get kids this young. Does it happen, yes, all the time. Is it a high possibility, there is really no way to know. Now, this is just for fost/adopt I am talking about right now. Kids can be removed starting from birth - for many reasons. If the mom already has kids in care, there is a good chance that her newborn baby will be removed as well. Of course you do get some babies that have drugs in their system at birth - that is usually an automatic removal. But, also remember - NJ is a safe haven state. Which means that a mom can turn over her baby (less than 30 days old) no questions asked to a hospital. These babies are put into foster care. And to be totally honest, I am hoping for one of these. The mom does have some rights - but only for 30 days. If she does not come back in those 30 days, the rights are terminated. So obvioulsly a much shorter time line.
Now, if you are looking at straight adopt, no, there will probably not be an under 2 year old - UNLESS they come as a pair with an older sibling. A lot of times if a mom already has kids in care, and then has another baby, sometimes the baby is added to the case of the older sibling and rights are term at the same time, which means that for the baby, the timeline was much shorter. Again , this has to do with the fact that it can take 18-24 months to have the parental rights terminated
5. Once you're licensed, are you expected to take other kids over time? No - you can be licensed and then receive a placement and then have your file put on "don't call me for any more kids". But, from what I have been told, they still may call you if they are desperate. Plus in some cases they are REQUIRED to call all open homes in order to get certain state grants for special cases (like the pregnant 15 year old that now needs to go to a special home for pregnant girls). You can also request to only be licensed for 1 child (or 2 whatever you want). But, for the most part, they will license you for as many kids will fit in your house. A child only needs 50 square feet of bedroom space, and a baby only about 30. So, I know for a fact that we will probably be licensed for 4 or 5!!!! The spare room is 163 sq feet (3 kids), our room can be a baby (1) and then Colin's room can have another kid (we will NOT do that though). So, even though we will be licensed for that many, we ONLY want 2.
It is a good idea to mantain your license though - you never know when you might decide to add to your family. Even if your file is inactive, you can alway call you worker and tell them that you would like another child.
6. What do they say are the risks to taking in a kid whose parents have involvement with drugs or is incarerated? Again, totally situational. Every case is so different. Not sure if I said it in my last e-mail. But, by law, the state is required to provide a minimum of a one hour visit each week. This is supervised, and generally at the DYFS office. The child's worker (called the case worker) can pick up the child at your home and bring to the DYFS office. Parents who have more visits than once a week, well, that is a good indication that they might go home.
The Case worker will cancel a visit if they feel that the parent is a danger to the child (drunk, on drugs, etc). Plus parents are subject to random and scheduled drug tests. So, to the child - there really are not too many risks.
I don't think (in most cases) there will be any visits in jail. But, who know for sure.
As far as a risk to you - the bio family is not given any info about you or your family. They will not be given your last name, your address, the town that you live in, your phone number, nothing. In fact - you never have to have any contact with them at all.
As far as a risk to the placement - again it depends on so so much. 12 -15 months is totally enough time to go to rehab and stay clean, or do minor jail time. Some parents are allowed to work their plan while in rehab or in jail (like parenting classes, rehab, etc). And it will also depend on the crime. If they are in jail for a crime against the child, I can almost guarantee that they will not be allowed to work their plan while in jail.
All kids in care are damaged in some way - I mean they were actually removed for a reason. But, younger kids bounce back real quick.
It is a lot to think about. To be honest, in the very begining I was not liking the fact that these kids could go back. It is hard to write how my feelings changed. But, I figured that if the kids do go back, they will go back better kids and even for a short time, they will have been 100% loved by me and my family. It is hard to explain.
I have asked my worker about percentages. And, statewide, about 40% of kids are returned to parents. Yes, that seems like a lot. But, that means that 60% stay in care.
Plus, out of the kids that go back, usually about 1/4 of those return to care. So, you are looking at about about 70% of kids in care make it to adoption.
I am sorry that I went on and on again....it is a lot of info.
If you have any other questions, please DO NOT hesitate to ask :) You wind up learning so much in the process, plus, I am like you - I like to ask questions.