Foster Parenting and Foster Adoption
By Tom and Sherry Bushnell
(Editor's Note: Parts of this article were taken from information located on Cheryl Barnesí web site, www.cpswatch.com with permission. © CSPWATCH)
In the last issue of the NATHHAN NEWS we wrote an article on adoption. Our negative comment about adopting through the foster care system prompted quite a response, both positive and negative from NATHHAN families. We wish we could just apologize and print a retraction for our slant, but the number of NATHHAN parents calling and sharing their story (and sorrow) is too great to gloss over.
Yes, we are totally aware that there are pockets of good in the system around the country, but these exist in a very large, money gobbling business, that happens to involve children. Children that belong to NATHHAN families.
We want to present facts, and resources for you. Then go and dig, finding more facts, both for and against joining the foster care and foster adopt program of your state. You are mature Christians, you make up your own minds!
Perhaps some (including us) are not aware of all the facts. We welcome your factual information and experiences. It stands to reason, that if there is any risk to be had, we should investigate. Letís make a wise choice on facts, not emotion, nay sayers or salespersons.
There are several letters in this magazine from parents sharing their personal positive experiences with foster adoption.*
Right here is a letter from a very sweet NATHHAN family that would like to share with you their experience with the foster care/adopt system. She writes....
We have had good and bad experiences with foster kids and the system. Since my husband is 1/2 Native American (with the tribal papers) we adopted our first son through the Native American foster care system. Our 2nd, an 8 month old girl, came from this agency also but was later transferred to the local county foster care system as they could not verify her Native American status. Her full bio sister came to us at 48 hours old, also through the foster care system.
One option is to work with your local foster care agency and become licensed foster parents but ONLY take pre-adopt placements--those children whose parental rights have already been terminated through the courts and are free for adoption. This is the way most adoptions are handled in our area.
For us there have been many benefits to adopting "through the system".
1. We had the protection of the court from the birth family members.
2. Our children all qualified for Medicaid--which will cover all medical care not covered by our insurance, including co-pays and preexisting conditions. This can be very important when adopting a child with many medical issues. Another important aspect of the medicaid coverage is that it will cover mental health treatment and hospitalization for mental illnesses.
3. Our children qualify for an adoption subsidy. The daily rate is typically $13.85-28.85 PER DAY until the child graduates from high school or is 18 and not in school. 2 of our children qualify for a much higher daily rate as they have intensive medical and emotional needs. This allows me the financial freedom to stay home full time and my husband to take a job working 35 hours a week, 40 weeks a year teaching auto mechanics to high school students. Daddy can now be home more and be more involved with the kids.
4. As part of the adoption medical subsidy the kids qualify for therapy--speech, OT, PT, and tutoring during the summer if needed. It also pays for a therapist/counselor. Our one daughter has attachment issues (among many other issues). We are working with a specially trained attachment therapist. Her sessions run 1-4 hours in length and cost $80-320 each. Most of that cost is covered.
5. Each adopted child can get a scholarship to a camp or camps of their choice for up to $300 total. This can include church camps, specialty camps, YMCA day sports camps, etc.
6. The children up to age 5 qualify for WIC and related services.
7. The adoptions were FREE. We had to pay about $100 per child for court papers but that was refunded back to us when we filled out a form with the state. All home studies, physicals, etc. were covered.
We currently have NO state involvement in our lives or the lives of our adopted children. The subsidy checks come once a month and I can just submit bills if needed. We have never had to report how we spend the money, etc. I know that some families do not wish to take money from the government and that is fine. I just want prospective adoptive parents to realize what services are available if they adopt a child that has been "in the system" versus a private adoption (some of those do qualify for the above benefits IF the child was in foster care).
I just know of MANY families that have adopted overseas or privately and are now facing severe struggles as their child(ren) have severe needs and there is no assistance available for them.
Each family needs to make the decisions that are best for their family but I would just want them all to be well informed of the pluses and minuses of each type of adoption situation.
As an aside note, there are many very young children available in the system in our area. There are large numbers of children ages birth -2 years that are in our system locally.
Questions that we might ask ourselves before becoming involved in foster care.
As Christians, surely we must all be aware that there are horror stories. Yet, havenít we heard of the great need for foster homes via the media, or even from personal experience?
When entering upon a business venture with the state, such as foster care, can we ask ourselves these ethical and logical questions?
-Are the children coming into our home actual cases of substantiated abuse or true neglect? Are we providing baby-sitting services for parents, via the state?
-Do we feel from a Biblical perspective it is the governmentís responsibility to care for widows and orphans? If we perceive foster care or adoption to be a ministry in our home, is it right to take money for doing the Lordís work?
- How much money does the state get from the Federal government for each child in our home per year? (Editorís note: approximately $5,000/ year with no special needs, much more depending on the disability). How much of that amount do we get, the ones doing all the work? Are we willing to work for the state, for our monthly allotment (and less if need be)?
-Are the childís birth parentsí rights presently terminated? Has the child reached orphan status so that permanent adoption can occur? OR is there inconsistent contact with the parent, initiated and approved by the state, to reconcile the children back into their parentís home?
-As a Christian family, are we willing to allow state social workers (most of them not fruit bearing Christians) to search whether we are eligible to work as a foster or adoptive parent? Are visits thereafter O.K. to keep track of how things are going?
-What is our policy on discipline? Specifically spanking? Foster parents are not allowed to spank. How will this affect birth children in the home, if they get spanked for being naughty and the foster (or potential adoptive) child does not?
Here is some input from NATHHAN foster families who have been there.
Some have had positive and some negative experiences. Are you a good candidate for foster parenting or foster adoption?
Are you a professing Christian? If you attend home church and not a regular denomination, if you wear a head covering for Biblical reasons, you are at greater risk for extra scrutiny. You may be required to share in deep detail what exactly your beliefs are.
If you do not own a TV or watch videos, or get the newspaper for moral reasons, you are at greater risk for being turned down.
If the father is the unquestionable head of the home and a wife is quiet and submissive, you are at greater risk for being turned down. Social workers like to see an outgoing, interactive mother who is aware of her rights in society and doesnít hesitate to get them herself.
If you homeschool you are at greater risk of being turned down for a foster care licence. (Although within the last few years, increasing numbers of social workers are allowing homeschooling on individual basis.)
If you have more than 4 children already, especially 3 or more under the the age of 5, you may not be eligible for a foster care licence. 8 children in the home at once, seems to be the cap on what social workers and other professionals deem parents capable of even if they are your own by birth.
Are you open to taking full advantage of government services, including Medicaid, all manner of therapies, the school system, social workers, WICC, psychologists and counselors? This includes taking their advice and implementing it.
Here are some sites to find children posted for foster adoption. Some of the sites are rather large so you are asked to choose the sex, age, color, disability, state (subsidy rate) that you want. More sites are listed on www.cpswatch.com
Be forewarned that many of the children that are being profiled on these sites are NOT legally free for adoption (ie. parental rights being terminated).
Mostly there are school age children available. Why the big percentage of older children available for adoption? Children under the age of 5 are contracted through private adoption agencies, where parents are more willing to pay adoption fees.
Please also watch for cases such as a sibling group of 3 boys profile states, " They came into care when their birth family was unable to provide for their basic necessities." which means poverty. However, the subsidy rate for adopting these children is $2,4000 per month. Imagine what the birth family could have done with that!
The Faces of Adoption www.adopt.org
Northwest Adoption Exchange www.jetcity.com/~nwae/
What is the difference between an adoption subsidy and an adoption incentive? Fair question.
An adoption subsidy is what a parent gets for adopting a child in the US foster care system. It does not generally apply for foreign adopted children unless they are first put on the system for some reason BEFORE adoption takes place. This subsidy can range from $10.00 a day - $30.00 a day plus, depending on special needs. The check comes in once a month, with no strings attached.
An adoption incentive is what the state gets under the Adoption and Safe Families Act for each child that is adopted out. How do they work? What must these states do to earn these payments? And, what can states do with the money?
In general, states earn $4,000 for each child that is adopted from foster care and an additional $2,000 for each "special needs" child. These payments are capped at $20,000,000 per state, which equals 5,000 adoptions.
In order for states to be eligible to earn the full amount of money allowed for incentive payments, they must increase the number of adoptions each year. If adoptions for the fiscal year are less than the average of the last three years, the state gets nothing. States only receive payments on the portion of adoptions that EXCEEDS the average of the previous three years. Example: the average number of adoptions for the previous three years is 1,000; the number of adoptions for this year is 1,200; the state only receives incentive payments for 200 adoptions.
In fact, each state must increase the number of adoptions by 5,000 each year to make this standard!
States are required to spend their incentive payments on Child Welfare programs. Family Preservation and Reunification services have a federal cap. (This service is for children who are in the system and could be reunited with their families if the state deems so.) Logically, the areas left in which to spend the excess of funds includes termination of parental rights (very costly) and adoptions.
Is your state increasing their foster care...parental termination....adoption rate?
More interesting information on foster care/ foster adoption statistics is available at www.cpswatch.com/contact If you are needing information such as how much money your state will be getting for your child/year you may have to dig deeper than a web site. It is not common knowledge.
Facts to be aware of:
No one will argue that children have been wrongfully removed from homes because parents make mistakes. Not a one of us is perfect. Social workers vary in their interpretation of what constitutes "abuse" or "neglect". As soon as a child is taken out of the home, the state begins to earn federal money for the cost of caring for that child. Drawing from the data submitted by the states, NCCAN (National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect) estimated that 2,806,453 total reports of child abuse and neglect were phoned in to hotlines across the country in 1998. 34 % of those (955,186) were immediately judged unfounded and "screened out" of the investigative process. Of the 1,851,267 that were investigated, 295,169 were substantiated for physical or sexual abuse óabout 11% of the 2.8 million reports.
Cheryl Barnes, Director of CPSWATCH questions, "Can we justify a 4.3 billion dollar budget for 295 thousand cases of abuse?"
It appears that according to statistics from The Center on Child Abuse Prevention Research (1988) that the number of children who received services at home declined from 1,244,400 in 1994 to 493,100 in 1997. During the same period, the amount of children taken out of their homes skyrocketed - 502,000 children were in foster care placement in 1994. There has been a 50% increase since then.
Let us all be aware that the media does a great job at "selling" the whole idea of the foster care/ foster adopt system. It is big business. The nationwide foster care budget exceeds that of the National Defense Budget, to the tune of well over 12 billion dollars! In addition, from the systemís perspective, they are providing a great service to humanity, soliciting millions of private donations for the plight of millions and millions of abused and neglected children.
Is child abuse on the rise? OR are there more incentives to terminate parental rights, placing the child in a foster adoptive home to receive federal dollars through foster care?
If we as parents have a child taken away and put in our stateís foster care system, not only does the state now receive money each month from the federal government for their care, but we, the birth parents, are also required to make payments to the state, if they deem that our income allows it. In fact, federal and state tax payer funds are just the tip of the funds available to agencies once the state removes a child from their birth home. Where is all this money going?
Certainly not enough to the foster care families. Although some families are satisfied with the amount of money they receive, and are happy to get help, many other foster families decry that their monthly payments for working for the foster care system are woefully inadequate, only partial of the promised amount, or late!
Did you know that once a child has had parental rights terminated, if a child is under age 5 and deemed "marketable", a private agency takes over and then "double dips" by charging the adopting parents for the same care? In addition, if a child is in state care, the agency can claim a childís SID benefits, for agency use.
It appears that the system may take children out of homes because it pays to do so. Foster care agencies get considerably more federal and state funds for removing a child from his home than they do in making reasonable efforts to preserve the family.
On the positive side of foster care, there are tragic incidences of child abuse and death every day. This is what the system is for.
Our question is, how can states use these awful situations as "a case-in-point" and knowingly and wrongfully take children away from honest, loving parents (even NATHHAN parents) who might make a mistake by disciplining to hard (leaving bruises)? Havenít all of us been guilty of parenting mistakes? And how do we know, as foster parents, what the real story is behind a foster care child? Many social workers appeal to emotion and feed exhausted foster parents (exhausted from caring for a difficult foster child) with only part of "the sad story" to keep them going. How much of it is truth?
What are the chances of having a Christian social worker assigned to your case? For this we have no statistics! Obviously there are Christian social workers sympathetic to Biblical child raising.
From personal experience here at NATHHAN we can attest that we hear many more honest, heart-rendering tragic stories involving foster care and foster adoption than happy ones. Perhaps this is the nature of who we are here. These families are not at liberty to publish their stories, as they live in fear.
Within the last year we have had phone calls and letters describing stories such as: 9;
A mother decides to bring in extra funds so she can stay home from work and homeschool, by taking in foster care children. It reaches disastrous proportions, as one of the foster girls accuses the foster father of child abuse. Thousands are paid by the family to a lawyer to "clear" this Christian father.
We receive LOTS of calls on the phone asking for help because the state is trying to take away babies or even older children for "medical or education neglect". Their parental crime? They have decided to forgo therapies at the school district or child development center and learn to do them themselves.
Several NATHHAN homeschooling families have been forced to find a lawyer after hotline accusations lead to social worker visits. The social workers then became "concerned" when the mother will not allow the social worker in the house nor speak to them without their husbandsí presence.
Hopefully by now you are not totally frustrated with a negative approach from us toward the foster care system. We honestly feel that there are great success stories out there and you can read just a couple of them here in this magazine. Itís just that from our perspective, our view from the end our phone and mail here at NATHHAN, this is what is happening.
How can this all be? How can the foster care/adoptive system involving similar Christian families bring such a blessing to one family and such terror to another?
As parents wanting to do what God wants, we should be willing to work "in the world" if this is what He is asking us to do.
He also wants us to use wisdom and not be "unequally yoked" if we feel that we are entering a partnership with the state when taking foster care children or foster adoption.
So much is open to private interpretation. None of us can be the judge of another Christianís motives.
It is wise to ask questions from families in your state and social services district that have foster adopted or provided foster care. There is no guarantee that the social worker assigned to your case will be sympathetic to your life-style. Talk to your minister or honest close friend whether you would be able to handle risking the system if things went sour.
Above all, let us all make an effort not to be swayed by emotional "half-truths" positive or negative from anyone (including the state), but make decisions for our family based on real facts.