Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Long Awaited Rant #2 That Didn't Exactly Remain a Rant

I am convinced, lately, that there is a new guaranteed way to improve the disruption rate. The solution: Don't ever place kids. If you never place them, they won't disrupt.

Before I begin, I must make 1,001 disclaimers. The information I am about to present is solely my opinion. It does not represent the feelings of any agency I work with, anyone I am affiliated with, my husband, my parents, my children or even my friends or acquaintances. I say that just in case I offend someone...

I have thought long and hard about how to approach a topic about ICPC. Now obviously, I am a complete idiot to suggest anything negative at all about an office that has so much influence. The office of ICPC has the power to say no to any placement coming into their state. Maybe this is why so people are afraid to even mention them in a public arena. What if I were to need their approval? (which I will soon, on several of my cases). Will this poison them towards me and have them make it more difficult?

I hope that my comments today will not be seen as derisive but simply as my attempt to understand the process and why ICPC offices deny placements. And, before I do, I must state that our state ICPC office has never denied a placement that I have requested, so I am not speaking of my state specifically but of all states across the country and the possible motivations when denying placements.

It is my understanding that ICPC was set up to ensure that paperwork was done correctly and that medical assistance could be properly applied. I do not know that it was ever intended to be a judgment call as to the appropriateness of a placement, but that is what it has become in many states. So, why DO states deny requests for placement?

I don't really know, to tell you the truth, but let me throw out some possible reasons.

1) Bias and opinions of ICPC administrators. The bias can be against single parents, same sex couples, parents with no experience, parents with "too much experience" (large families), transracial adoption, parents who live in the inner city, parents who live in the country, etc. etc. etc. It is very difficult to keep personal opinion out of a job and I am sure that even the best ICPC administrators have this challenge.

2) The idea of dumping. When a lot of children from one state end up going to another state, people sometimes refer to this as dumping children. I don't see it that way at all. Some states have an more children than families, some states have more children than families. I look at it like an import/export situation. It is like suggestion that Columbia or Brazil stop dumping their coffee into the U.S. or that Idaho stop dumping it's potatoes into Minnesota. Children are a gift, and should be received as such. I have done many interjurisdictional placements and in none of these situations did I feel like caseworkers were intentionally trying to "dump" children into another state. And I must say, that Texas dumped Leon and Wilson into Minnesota, Minnesota will be eternally grateful as they will both be outstanding citizens.

3) The desire to save one's own states families for the children living in that state. I understand this phenomenon. However, the challenge is this: In states where there are more families than children, rumor starts to get around that there are no waiting children. Families wait too long and there is too much competition for a small number of children, and thus they get frustrated. States would be better off if they would free their families to adopt from other states and thus have a successful adoption story to share with families who are considering joining the adoption journey.

4) $$$. Receiving children with physical or mental disabilities is, in the long run, going to cost the receiving state Medical Assistance dollars. Though few would openly admit that this is a reason it definitely comes into play.

5) Trying to predict the future. Offering the final stamp of approval on a placement can be a daunting task. But I believe that by this point, a good decision should have already been made. It is almost insulting for someone who has neither met the family nor the child to second guess the joint decision of those who have. However, I know that these people also receive a lot of heat when a placement goes "bad."

I have made my share of risky placements... and many of them have turned out better than expected. I have also made my share of "no brainer" placements, that appeared perfect, that have resulted in disasters. There is absolutely no way to determine by reading paperwork which families will remain in tact and which will disrupt.

6) And, finally, there are politics involved. And since I hate politics, I won't even bother to try and unravel how all that works, but they do exist.

If you are really interested in this topic, you can read A REPORT TO CONGRESS ON INTERJURISDICTIONAL ADOPTION OF CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE. Ironically, they came to some of the same conclusions I did.

Finally, I must say that I have a lot of respect for people in these very difficult jobs. I have come to learn that if we patiently work together we can assure that the ICPC system is a check and balance that will allow all of us to make better placement decisions. However, it is not a perfect system and improvements can always be made.

I guess this didn't really turn into a rant. Funny how sometimes when we feel like we want to rant, our conclusions after we explain it on paper aren't quite as harsh as our initial feelings on the subject...


Torina said...

Yup, I was wondering about this particular rant because our agency will not allow us to adopt kids from outside MN. I would have no problem with this if I actually got a response on any of the kids we inquired about. But yet, you have the state's largest county administering most of the adoptions and they NEVER respond unless there is a Wendy's representative appointed to them. In fact, they don't even like to place outside their county. HMPH. Good thing we meet ICWA or we would never have been matched. And we want to adopt teens and kids with disabilities! It isn't like we are looking for healthy babies. Frustrating.

Lisa said...

It is so frustrating. In my state is really hard to adopt in my state if you're single. I've inquired on 40/50 kids over the last 6 years. I have yet to have one call back.

However I am still totally impressed that SK passed through GA ICPC in 3 days. Impressive. I have to give them 3 thumbs up for speed. The worker also called me many times so that I could hound TX to get all the paperwork together. It ended up that she allowed me to come to their office and bring them all the paperwork I had instead of waiting on another state to produce it.

Lisa said...

I was told by caseworkers in my state (MI) that no one wants to do ICPC's because "they're too complicated, too much paperwork". Therefore, they would NEVER consider cooperating in one. I was also told that the workers are overburdened with too many cases on kids already in MI that they need to finish up on, so why would they want to bring in additional kids (i.e. more work). Not a good enough reason as far as I'm concerned.

You're right though, I was told in my county and the neighboring two counties that there were no kids available for adoption - all the kids were spoken for by current foster parents (yeah for the kids!!) or relatives. Okay then, why not go out of county or state? It's more complicated than it has to be apparently.

Jill Miller said...

Nicely put Claudia. Thank you for all the work you put into getting our paperwork to go through ICPC so we could have the wonderful kids that we do.