Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adoptive Home Needed for 5 Year Old Boy with Cerebral Palsy

I recently received an e-mail from an adoptive mother who has adopted five children with special needs through the New York based agency, Spence-Chapin.  She asked that I share some information on my blog about a 5 year old boy of Chinese heritage who has cerebral palsy in the hopes of helping to find an adoptive home for him.  Here is the information she shared:

[The agency has] been diligently trying to find an adoptive family for an adorable Chinese heritage 5 yr old who has cerebral palsy. His name is Alex and his smile lights up any room he is in. He has lived in a children's rehabilitation hospital in New York since he was born. His birth parents have been involved with him the whole time, but are unable to care for him at home and come to the loving decision to place him for adoption.
Spence-Chapin has been trying to find him a family for several months now, but there have been only a few inquiries, with no matches yet.  I told them I would try anything I could think of to try and help find Alex a family. So I found your beautiful blog and thought maybe you
could network Alex's situation to families that may be willing to consider him.

Alex is eligible for an adoption subsidy and Medicaid, regardless of parental income, in any state through his eighteenth birthday. The adoption subsidy from New York is very generous and would really go a long way to helping a family provide for Alex. Spence-Chapin's adoption fees for special needs are $1,000-3,000 on a sliding scale, but they can waive this based on family need.

They are looking for a strong family that has resources nearby and parents no older than 45 years old, family size is not an issue, as long as they have a strong plan for Alex's care.
I know this is a lot from someone you have never met but Alex has captured my heart and I want to do everything I can to find him a family. If you can help with your blog or connections it would be such a blessing.

I would be love to be a contact for anyone wanting to know more about Alex or Spence-Chapin.  Anyone interested can contact me anytime, I will help in any way I can.

My contact information is:
Debra Cronnelly
1351 Summit Chase Drive
Snellville, Ga 30078

Here is the link to Spence-Chapin's website that has video and information about Alex.

Thank you, Debra!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HB 237

In addition to HB 225, another bill was put before the Utah State Legislature yesterday which greatly affects not only the rights of foster parents and foster children, but the rights of birth parents and parents pursuing private adoptions as well.  This bill is HB 337.  Although I didn’t read all 43 pages of HB 337 and thus didn’t take the time to formulate a response in letter form to my representatives, from my understanding the “jist” of the part of this bill which affects my rights is that relatives of foster children would be given preference to adopt a child (versus the child’s foster family) AFTER parental rights of the child have been terminated. 

When I heard this I scratched my head and was like, “Say WHAT?”  Yet another one of my pet peeves concerning foster care is when a foster family has had a child in their care for several months or in some cases, a couple of years, and as soon as parental rights are about to be terminated relatives come out of the woodwork and suddenly decide they’d like to have the child in their care-despite the fact that the child is bonded and attached to their foster family (and vice versa) and thriving in a safe and nurturing home.  In some cases, the foster child has never even met or rarely interacted with their relatives who are now interested in becoming their full-time caregivers.  Perhaps the most disturbing scenario is when relatives come forward insisting that their rights be heard, and the child is placed in their care- perhaps even adopted by them- and then the relatives change their mind about becoming the permanent caregivers to the child which results in major disruption and trauma for the child as he or she is returned to his former foster home.   
Please don’t misunderstand me- the reason such scenarios irritate me is not because kin of the foster child steps forward- keeping families together is one of the primary goals of foster care and foster parents (or “resource families” as the Utah Foster Care Foundation refers to us) are just that- a resource in helping families while they work things out.  The thing that bothers me about such cases is the TIMING of it all.  Where were these relatives during the 120 day period following the child’s initial removal when they are by law given preference to come forward, express an interest in caring for the child, get their background checks turned in and home studies done?  Furthermore, what kind of support and/or intervention did these relatives provide to the biological parents before the child came into state custody in the first place? 
[Of course, it the relatives are distant ones, they may be unaware there is a need for support in the first place- or that such relatives even exist.   Such was the case with our foster son, George, who only stayed with us for three months before distant relatives of his mother’s were able to become licensed kinship providers with the intent of eventually adopting him.]  I was honestly happy for them and for George after meeting them and I know from listening to their perspective and going through the licensing process myself that they would have liked to have sped up the process of paperwork and training required to have George in their home sooner.  Had George been in our home for several months or over a year, on the other hand, his move would have been even harder on everyone involved- and especially traumatic to George to be bounced from home to home after forming attachments and beginning to establish a sense of permanency.
Hopefully, those examples are helpful in illustrating to others why HB 237 is upsetting to Utah’s foster parents and the children they care for.  Now for the GOOD NEWS from yesterday’s hearing:  According to one representative, the intent of the bill was not to remove a child from a suitable foster home that wished to adopt.  But as with The Constitution (or any other legal document for that matter) some of the wording in certain sections of the bill (Namely, Section 13 on page 36), was interpreted by many to mean such.   Click here to read the bill in its entirety.
Aside from foster children and foster parents, here’s how HB 237 could affect birthparents and adoptive couples pursuing private adoptions:  (Anyone who has a better legal understanding of this part of the bill, please feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken) Once a birthparent has terminated their rights to an infant in a private adoption—a relative may come forward and adopt the child, against the birth parent’s wishes!

Regarding this legislation I’m grateful for the chance for my rights to be respected and for my voice to be heard on such important decisions effecting children and families.

HB 225

Sunday night amidst Super Bowl commercials (I readily admit I wasn’t paying much attention to the game) and letting the sad news of the Josh Powell murder-suicide sink in, my husband and I composed an e-mail to our local representatives about a bill of  concern to us as foster parents: HB 225 which, among other things, proposed to list the names of foster parents on DCFS’s public website.  After we sent the e-mails I was happy to learn from a foster parent’s advocacy group the names and contact information of the nine other representatives on the Health and Human Services Committee who were scheduled to vote on the bill Monday afternoon at the legislative session at our state’s capital.    

Here is a copy of our letter:
Our family has fostered six children in the state of Utah over the past six years.  Our decision to become foster parents was influenced by the assurance that our personal information would be kept confidential.  For the majority of our foster placements, the policy of keeping our personal information confidential has been a safeguard to our family due to the fact that many of the birthparents of our foster children have had allegations, criminal records, and/or mental diagnoses which would be a safety concern to our family- especially to our children- if our private information were to become available to them.  In one case, the caregivers of our former foster child were tied to a highly organized and widespread crime ring. In fact, they were being tried under federal RICO charges.    
There is already a great shortage of families willing to provide safe and nurturing homes to children in state custody.  HB 225 has the potential to prevent many currently licensed foster families from continuing to provide foster care and could hinder potential foster care providers from becoming licensed in the first place due to similar privacy and safety concerns.
Please respect the rights of those who provide foster care to our state’s children by keeping private service provider’s information just that- “private”- by voting against HB 225. 
Respectfully, (Our names)
I was pleasantly surprised to receive a response from two of the legislators I contacted (even though one was an automated response) and even happier to learn early on Monday evening that HB 225 was amended so that our personal information will remain private, thanks in large part to other foster parents who made their voices heard- such as Mama Lark who expressed her “Heartburn” and concerns over the proposed bill in this blog post.
Another proposed bill, HB 237,  which affects the rights of foster parents and their foster children was brought before my state’s legislature yesterday, but for the sake of length I will save my thoughts on that bill for a separate post.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Foster Parent's Reaction to the Susan Cox Powell Tragedy

Yesterday afternoon the local news stations were buzzing with the horrific breaking news of Josh Powell’s cowardly suicide and murder of his two young children.  For those not familiar with this case, which originated in my home state but has received national attention, here’s the Cliff’s Note’s version:
Susan Powell is a Utah mother who "mysteriously" disappeared over 2 years ago.  Her husband, Josh, has been the main suspect in the case but there has not been enough evidence to convict him of her suspicious disappearance.  Susan and Josh had two young boys- ages 5 and 7- who have been in a nasty custody battle between their father (who conveniently decided to relocate to Washington State after his wife suddenly went missing) and their maternal grandparents in Utah.  The boys continued to stay in the custody of their maternal grandparents after explicit images were found on Josh's computer and he was were ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation. 

Yesterday morning a caseworker took the 2 young boys for a court-ordered supervised visit with their father who locked the caseworker out of the house and blew up his home, killing himself and his sons. 

Shortly after hearing the news my sister called me to get my reaction.  She also had some questions for me about supervised visits.   I shared some of my experiences with her, but told her that ultimately each case will vary by state policy.
Another friend of mine wrote the following as her facebook status:
May no other children come to harm from supervized visits in unsafe locations with dangerous parents. May the death of the Powell boys be a haunting reminder to judges and social workers. It is far better to be overly cautious than to let tender heartedness invite horror and unleash hell on the innocent.
To which I replied:
I absolutely agree with erring on the side of being overly cautious, but in defense of some of the more conscientious and tender-hearted social workers I've worked with sometimes they have no choice in child welfare matters but to follow a judge's orders even when they know it's NOT in the best interest of the child. That is what disturbs me most about this case: Josh's "rights" seemed to take precedence over the best interest, stability, and safety of his innocent children.
From a foster parent’s perspective one of my biggest pet peeves about child welfare and the legal system is when the rights and safety of children is not made a priority, but is put on the back burner until after their bio parents rights are considered.  That is why it is SO IMPORTANT for children to have committed caseworkers and guardian ad liteums who advocate for what is truly in their best interest-regardless of the wants, needs, or rights of the bio parents are.
Four other thoughts on the subject:
1)      My heart aches for the family of Susan Cox Powell- I can’t even imagine the pain they’ve been through because of their selfish son-in-law. 
2)      Drugs & alcohol are not the only addictions that can tear families apart- it sound like pornography was a likely factor as well.  
3)      I feel so bad for the caseworker at the scene.
4)      The only silver lining to come from all of this is that the Powell boys can now be with their mother again.