Monday, July 28, 2014

LDS Family Services No Longer Doing Adoptions

A Little Background:  LDS Family Services is the agency we went through for our first adoption.  I've written about them here and  here.  Overall our experience with LDSFS has been positive- especially when our family was involved with the adoption advocacy group Families Supporting Adoption, which was sponsored by LDS Family Services but which has (sadly) dissolved over the past couple of years.  Thankfully, another advocacy group, United For Adoption, with the same purpose as Families Supporting Adoption is quickly gaining momentum.

Last month as I was grocery shopping my phone buzzed and I got a message from a very active member of the LDS Adoption Community referring me to a news article announcing that LDS Family Services would no longer be doing adoptions.  Even though I've known that this would be coming for a few years now, I still felt very sad to learn that it was now "official". 
 
My husband and I feel very fortunate that we were able to use LDS Family Services- a social service agency administered under the direction of our Church- for our first adoption because it greatly subsidized the costs for us to adopt a child.  I know that for many other LDS couples, adopting through LDS Family Services is the only possible way they were able to afford to adopt a child.  Adopting through LDS Family Services is 10% of a family's gross annual income- not to exceed $10,000 whereas other private adoption agencies can range anywhere from $25K to $40K. 
 
Incidentally, I chuckled to myself when I read the title of one article announcing the recent changes:  "Mormon church drops adoption business".  Adoption is not, nor has it ever been, a "business" for the LDS Church.  The word "business" implies that money is made but the truth is that the Church loses money on each adoptive placement through LDS Family Services. 
 
Because LDS Family Services falls under the administration of Humanitarian Services/Welfare Services of the church the first explanation I heard about why Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) and adoptions through LDSFS would be coming to a halt is the costliness of adoptions.  From a cost/benefit analysis adoption is a very noble cause but could $25,000 be spent to benefit more than just one family but perhaps an entire village or community through projects such a building wells to provide clean drinking water or to build a school or start a farm in an underdeveloped area?  In other words, what would be most beneficial to the greatest amount of people? 
 
The second reason I heard for LDS Family Services stopping adoptions is simply the fact that less women are choosing to place their children for adoption.  This is evident by the number of prospective adoptive couples signed up with LDS Family Services (or any adoption agency for that matter) in contrast to the number of unwed mothers who choose to place their children for adoption.

On a related note, not all expectant parents who go through LDS Family Services for support choose adoption, nor are they required to do so.  Some, like a high school friend of mine who became pregnant shortly after we graduated from high school, choose to parent but still receive support from the agency.  (I know this because I accompanied her to a support group on one occasion).   Basically it is the role of LDS Family Services to provide resources to single expectant parents and help them explore their options but they will respect and support whatever decision is made- whether that decision includes to parent or to place.  This is exactly what David McConkie, the current group manager for adoptions for LDS Family Services, said in another article:  "We are trying to expand our services to that group [single expectant parents] and let them know that whatever their choice, we will help them as much as we can to be successful- whatever their choice may be."
 
Of course there has been speculation that LDS Family Services is getting out of adoptions because they don't want to feel "forced" to place children with homosexual parents against their religious conscience, as has been the case with other religious-based agencies such as Catholic Community Services, but none of the articles I read or any of the spokespeople for the agency cited that controversial issue as the reason for this shift in focus.
 
So what does this mean for adoptive couples who have been waiting to adopt through LDS Family Services?
 
Well, the good news is that the changes didn't go into effect immediately when the announcement was made, but will take effect at the end of this year OR when a couple's Home Study with LDS Family Services expires.  Hopefully this will give at least a couple of months for many of the roughly 600 prospective adoptive families to come up with alternative plans.  Since LDS Family Services will no longer be a child-placing agency they will no longer be doing home studies for adoptive couples but they will continue to provide counseling to adoptive couples. 

Services to expectant parents and birthparents will basically remain unchanged.  It is my understanding that LDS Family Services will continue to offer support and counseling as they always have, but since the agency no longer does home studies of adoptive applicants they will refer birthparents to other reputable adoption agencies.   Birthparents will still have access to profiles of prospective LDS adoptive couples online through the itsaboutlove.org website. 
 
Speaking of which . . .  just for fun  I looked up our profile on itsaboutlove.org this morning and discovered that after five and a half years of waiting to adopt this time around with LDS Family Services our family made it to the TOP 15 of couples who have been waiting the longest to adopt!  That is, out of 561 families currently listed on itsaboutlove only 2% have been waiting to adopt longer than we have.)  Too bad it's not a contest to see how long you must wait to adopt because Top 2% sounds pretty impressive if I do say so myself! 

By the way, I can personally vouch for two families in the "Top Ten" who have been waiting to adopt longer than we have- Jo is my childhood friend and I met Doug and Marianne at an adoption conference four or five years ago and instantly liked them.  Any child would be lucky to be in either of these families.  Seriously.
 
One major advantage of having to wait more than five years to adopt is that it gives you more time to explore other options and save up money.  Because of this, our family has continued to stay licensed as a fost-adopt family through our state and we have not entirely given up inquiring about waiting children.  We feel fortunate to be able to be signed up with two other adoption agencies in addition to LDSFS including Premier Adoption and Forever Bound Adoption which was founded by Steve Sunday, a very reputable adoption professional who has had over 30 years of experiences heading adoptions with LDS Family Services and who currently sits on the Board of Directors of Utah Foster Care.

This change in LDS Family Services adoption services is not the end of the world for our adoption hopes but I know that other prospective adoptive couples going through LDS Family Services have been absolutely devastated by the news that LDSFS will no longer be a child-placing agency.  My heart truly goes out to these families.  In answer to the question I posed earlier: what does this mean for adoptive couples who have been waiting to adopt through LDS Family Services?  These families who have been using LDS Family Services must now find another adoption agency or pursue an adoption with a lawyer but no agency involvement (which means they'd have to network like CRAZY to find a birthmother who is in a position to place a child).  Or they could always pursue foster adoption through their state, look into domestic adoption, pursue infertility treatments (if that is an option for them and if they haven't already exhausted their financial resources and/or health in the process, that is) or simply give up.  None of these options will be easy.


Because I'm slightly biased in favor of providing foster care regardless of if the outcome is adoption, I did offer up this piece of advice in an online forum to any who find themselves in such a position:

"For any hopeful adoptive couples out there who may not be able to afford the costs of a private agency outside of LDSFS and who have ever considered it, I would strongly encourage you to look into FOSTERING or FOST/ADOPTING THROUGH YOUR STATE which is not only FREE but more importantly can make a huge difference in the life of a child! Here's the link to a downloadable Prospective Foster Parent Packet from Utah Foster Care: http://utahfostercare.org/beco.../prospective-parent-packet/ and here is a link to finding more info about fostering in other states: http://www.adoptuskids.org/.../state-adoption-and-foster...."
 
Any other thoughts on the changes with LDS Family Services and adoption?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Relinquishing Parental Rights of a Child in Foster Care

This is what I wrote about the status of Jack and Jill's case in this post:

" it seems like there is literally some new development in the case every. single. week."
 
Last week we learned of another major development in the case:  Jack and Jill's father has decided to relinquish his parental rights, which means IF the judge rules in favor of reunification the babies will be returning to the care of their single parent mom who must use her minimum wage earnings to put them in subsidized day care while she works.  (No friends or relatives have been approved to provide temporary or permanent care to the babies which is a big reason why there hasn't been any opportunity for unsupervised or extended/transitional visits in a home environment outside of the DCFS office.)  Transitioning is SO important- not just to the children whose needs should come first but to birth families as well! 

My biggest concern is that if the children are placed back with their mom it will be too overwhelming for her to care for them because she's just not used to it.  I've said it before but playing with your kids for a couple of hours a week during a supervised visit is VASTLY different than caring for them 24/7- especially considering the fact that she will have such limited support.  What a tough situation to be in.
 
To the credit of Jack & Jill's mother, she has been able to keep a job the last couple of months and she always shows up to their weekly supervised visits.  However, after ten months she has yet to find housing nor has she started on another major requirement of her Service Plan which could realistically take months to complete.  
 
The Permanency Hearing is only six weeks away and although the caseworker and the children's Guardian Ad Liteum will not be recommending reunification with their mother since she has completed less than half of her Service Plan Requirements, I will not be surprised if the judge (who seemed rather lenient towards birthparents at the last hearing I attended) will offer an extension rather than terminating parental rights.
 
Another note about relinquishing parental rights:  I hate to say it, but I think financial responsibility is one big factor in Jack and Jill's father's choice to relinquish.  He will no longer have to legally provide financial support to his ex-girlfriend (the children's mom) or the children.  Nor will he have DCFS "on his back".   
 
I have only had one other foster child who had a parent relinquish their parental rights and it was not the first time this parent had done so.  It was also only after he knew his child would be adopted by relatives which makes me wonder: Is it possible that Jack & Jill's father has come to the realization that he is not in a good position to raise his children and that even if their mother's rights are terminated they would be adopted into a loving stable home?  I don't know what is going through his mind but I think it's sad that he just stopped coming to visits without formally saying goodbye to his children.  Then again, maybe it would be too painful to have to say goodbye.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Forever Bound Adoption- Jared and Mary

The family in this video has been waiting to adopt again for over five and a half years now.  (For those of you who know me in real life, Yes- this is actually my family!)

Please Share to help spread the word.  Thank You.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Safe Haven Miracle & Hope For Abandoned Babies

A few months ago I was deeply disturbed to read a local news story of a woman who had {allegedly} killed six of her newborn babies and then hidden their remains in her garage.   (A seventh baby was found but was a stillborn.)   “WHAT IN THE WORLD was going through this woman’s mind to do something so heinous?”  I wondered. 
 
The emotions in my mind as I read that story were similar to what I felt when I came across the account I wrote about previously of a “discarded” (but living) baby in China- only this local case seemed much more bizarre and tragic considering there were multiple casualties, including the mother herself.  (Because let’s face it- nobody in their right mind could possibly do something like that.  And although mental illness, deep personal issues, and a lack of support never excuse someone from taking innocent lives, God is the only one who truly knows what drove this woman to take such a horrific path not just once but several times.)
Stories of child and infant abandonment, abortion, or child abuse and neglect in general always strike a particularly sensitive chord within me as an infertile woman and an adoptive and foster mother.  I’m aware of so many families who would give anything- and some who have given everything- to have a child or bring another child into their family.  Doubtless others who heard the disturbing news story also thought, as did I “Why couldn’t this woman have handed the babies over to the care of someone else or anonymously taken them to a hospital or fire station?”  Enter Safe Haven Laws.
Q:  What exactly is a Safe Haven Law? 
I like this definition from the Child Welfare Information Gateway:
A:  “Baby Moses laws” or infant safe haven laws have been enacted as an incentive for mothers in crisis to safely relinquish their babies to designated locations where the babies are protected and provided with medical care until a permanent home is found. Safe haven laws generally allow the parent, or an agent of the parent, to remain anonymous and to be shielded from prosecution for abandonment or neglect in exchange for surrendering the baby to a safe haven.”
The first safe haven law in the U.S. was enacted in Texas in 1999.  Currently, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have Safe Haven Laws which protect babies from abandonment and infanticide.   For specific state statutes refer here: https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statues/safehaven.cfm
Brenda Horrocks is an adoption/foster care buddy of mine who recently shared her story of how their little boy, Spencer, came to be a part of their family.  Spencer was a Safe Haven baby and I thought Brenda’s words in this recent radio interview about the women, including her son’s birthmother, who use Safe Haven Laws to save their babies were very wise, especially considering the fact that all too often people (myself included) are quick to pre-judge women who may be faced with such a desperate situation.
Of her son’s birthmother’s decision to use the Safe Haven Law Brenda says:
“We know how much she loved him and just so thankful that she was able to make that hard decision for him because she was not at that time or currently in a place where she could be a parent.
There would have been no way for her to really make an adoption plan because she probably didn’t even know where to go for that ‘cause she was on her own.  This is a situation where she could give him what she felt like he needed and there in the hospital she had support- there were people there who could help her whereas outside in the world there wasn’t anybody.”
Of women faced with crisis pregnancies:
“Making this choice doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  Making this choice to keep your child safe and healthy and get them a happy life in this way is good parenting and that’s being a loving mother.  I think too often there’s too many voices out there saying how awful these women and girls are who hand their babies over or place their babies for adoption in the traditional sense. They look at them as bad people and they’re not- they are making the hardest decision anybody would ever have to make.”  -Brenda Horrocks
Click HERE to see a video clip of the Horrocks advocating for Safe Haven laws (and to see what a darling boy Spencer is).
In light of the gloom of the horrific story I recounted at the beginning of this post, I would like to share three short and inspirational clips, which, like the Horrocks family’s story of their last adopted child, focus on the HOPE that can come from what could have been tragic circumstances and beginnings for babies.
 Grab some Kleenexes.




 
 This last clip is the longest of the three but well worth seven minutes of your time.  Although it is technically a commercial it is based on a true story.



 *TO FIND OUT WHAT THE SAFE HAVEN LAWS ARE IN YOUR STATE, (including who can relinquish a child, at which locations, and up to what age), CLICK HERE *
http://www.nationalsafehavenalliance.org/states/
 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thinking About Adopting Though Foster Care?

At the close of National Foster Care Month I thought it would be appropriate to share this infographic, courtesy of creatingafamily.org.

You gotta be crazy to adopt from foster care