I got a request for some general information regarding foster care / adoption from foster care. The answer is pretty long, but I am always looking for great way to spread education on the subject, so I am going to C&P my answer here. There will be a follow-up tomorrow with a Q&A.
The person that requested the information was open to fost/adopt. But, not too comfortable with having a child returned after bonding with them.
Here is my response, some of it may be a repeat of things already on my blog - warning, it is long:
The first thing I have to say is that if you are really worried about kids going back, then foster to adopt might not be the best option.
Any placement within foster or fost/adopt, the goal is reunification with parents. There is straight adoption, which I will get to that later.
The way that fost/adopt works is that you are licensed for foster care and adoption. A child is placed in your home that the social worker (sw) on the case thinks that there is a HIGH possibility that the child will not go back to family. There can be a million reasons why a sw does not think a child would go back.
Here are some reasons why a sw might THINK a child will not be returned:
= other kids in care. This usually means there is a history of removal and termination of rights.
= the removal was due to a crime against that child by the main caretaker of the child.
= the removal was due to another crime, and that crime required a very very long jail sentence
= the child is born in jail and the mom has a long sentence (and dad is nowhere around)
Now, these are just some reasons, there can be a million reasons why the sw thinks these kids are not going back.
Fost/Adopt basically means that a child is a foster child and IF the rights are terminated, you are making a commitment to adopt the child.
Now, remember, the goal is always reunification. And this is even the case for major drug addicts, and major offenses against a child. You also have to remember, in most cases, DYFS has already been working with the parents to correct situations.
So, by the time a child is removed, a mom has already not been doing her "plan" - you can take that info as you like. But, I see it as a good indicator that there is a chance that the parents will NOT do their plan.
At the time of removal, the mom (sorry to say, but usually the dad has no interaction with the child), is given a "plan" to get her kids back. Again, it totally depends on why the kids were removed. But - it can include things like going to rehab, getting a job, getting an apartment, going to parenting classes, showing up at visits, etc.
Once a child is removed, the DYFS office will start calling area families to see if they can take the child. For the most part, they kind of know in advance who they might call, because like I said, they have already been working with the mom and the removal is planned. Yes, there are cases where the children were removed on the spot.
Here is the timeline for possible adoption. Since reunification is the plan, there are timelines that have to be followed before termination is filed.
A mom has 12-15 months to work her plan. Yup, even if they think that the mom is a crazy drug addicted really bad person - and even if they think that there is no possibility that the child will go home.
At any time during the plan, the mom can decide that she will terminate her rights, she would then be given counseling, but she can in fact do it.
OK - anyway, we will be given updates on the plan at about 30-45 days after placement. Plus we would kinda know if the mom is not showing up for visits (I will get into visits at another time). At about 60-90 days, we will be given a pretty clear answer about the possibility of adoption. But since the mom has that 12-15 months to do her stuff, the sw could be totally wrong.
And, yes - even if the mom does not do a damn thing for months and months, she could start doing her plan at say 9 months after placement. So, even if for 9 months we thought that the child would be adopted, that might change very quickly.
If the mom does not do her plan, the judge will look at the case at the 12-15 mark. At that point, the plan would be changed to termination of rights (instead of reunification). It really does not mean much, but in rare cases, the mom is still given a chance to work her plan, even though the plan is now termination of rights.
It takes about 6 months for the judge to actually terminate the rights. At that time, we have to file a formal request to adopt the child. It is another approx 6 months for the court date to finalize adoption. Yep, do the math - that is 2 years.
Things can go faster. And the time is collective. Which means that if a child is removed prior to your placement, then that time counts - even if it is years later.
So - as you can see, there is always the possibility that a child could go back, even though the sw thought all along that the child would NOT be returned.
So - like I said, if you are worried about getting attached and then a child going back, then fost/adopt might not be right for you.
With adoption - the kids are the kids that already went through the above, and are "free and clear" basically, parental rights have already been terminated. Now, yes, it is possible that there are still young kids available, but if you look at the timeline above - this is not likely.
Now, you ask, why wouldn't the current foster family adopt the child??? Well, it could be for a few reasons. The family might be older and not really able to give a long term commitment for adoption - the family might only want to do foster, preparing the child for adoption - the family just might not want to adopt. These kids stay in their foster homes until a pre-adoptive placement can be made.
So, those kids would be placed in your home as a pre-adoptive placement. Then months later, the adoption will be final.
We will be licensed for both, and will probably take the first placement that we get.
Well, since I wrote a novel - I will write more later, including things like costs involved, the types of kids in care, stipend, etc.
If you have specific questions, please let me know