Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"Unadoptable Children" or Being Responsible and Being Held Responsible

Cindy, not the one I usually link to, made a valid point in her comment yesterday. She suggested that while every child deserves a family, not every family deserves to have their lives disturbed by a very troubled child.

I have tried to get my head around this whole issue for several years. Very troubled children, if they remain in the system, have services that will take care of them until they turn 18. Residential treatment, psychiatric hospital stays, therapy . . . whatever it takes to care for them. But the day a family commits to that child forever and takes them to court to finalize the adoption, suddenly, if services are needed, the family becomes the responsible party -- not only responsible to seek services, to sometimes pay for them, but also responsible for, and accused of, causing the children's mental illnesses themselves.

Somewhere, somebody ought to figure out that there is something wrong with this picture. In committing to adopt a troubled child, the family is putting themselves at risk of being blamed for the troubles themselves and subjecting their family to the abuse caused by the child. All of things might be possible to sell to a family -- to take this on in order to "save a life" IF there were the support. But being responsible for all this while being HELD responsible is just too much.

I have a solution. It is not a solution that "the system" may want to hear because it might be expensive, but what if families could adopt children that were never able to live in a home setting? What if a family was willing to advocate for these children, visit them in their various placements, and then guide them as much as they would be guided as an adult to find the resources they needed? Why does adoption have to mean very troubled children living in homes with parents who cannot access the services they need?

At the very least, when a family commits to an adoption, the state or county from which they come should include a guarantee of services needed equal to or better than what is offered to a child in foster care.

Many years ago there was a discrepancy that was keeping foster parents from adopting their children. Unfortunately, even the best foster parents, very bonded to the children in their care, could not afford to adopt without any kind of financial support. For this reason Federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance was created by Congress under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. At that time, the government was wise enough to see that foster parents were not going to adopt unless they were willing to provide what they needed in order to raise the children..

It may be, that as children in the system become more and more troubled by the issues of our society, the government will realize that we are asking for the same thing. Families cannot expected to except full responsibility for mentally ill children unless they have access, without being blamed, criticized or charged with abandonment or neglect, to the same resources the children have access to if they remain in foster care.

In 1980 the deal breaker was no subisdy. In the very near future it may be that the deal breaker is no services. And our government will have to decide how important it is for children to have parents. And hopefully they will be wise enough to realize, just as they did in 1980, that sometimes saving money means spending money.

Are there already states that are offering this? If so I'd love to know which ones. And I'm interested in hearing your feedback.


marythemom said...

We adopted special needs teens from the state of Nebraska (we live in Texas). Nebraska offers many services including the very needed residential treatment (RT) as part of their state Medicaid. Texas does not.

When we were finalizing the adoption subsidies (more generous than TX), a friend who had also adopted from NE mentioned we could ask for RT to be included (she hadn't and it was very expensive for her). Our son was in RT at the time so even though this delayed both his and his sister's adoption by several more months we fought for this to be added.

Because they were adopted out of state, our children do not qualify for any other post adoption services, but we have the comfort of knowing that we can access RT if needed.

Having access to more services would have made our lives much easier, but luckily I have a Social Work background and have been able to advocate for my kids' needs. I can't imagine our lives now if I didn't. Our kids came to us virtually undiagnosed - including RAD and bipolar disorder. We were not told they were perfect, but we had no idea how hard this was going to be. More support would be great! I know there are a lot more services out there my kids could benefit from if we just had more money and more information (for example, our daughter might have been eligible for free in-state college tuition if we had waited two more weeks until she turned 13 to adopt her).

Mary in TX

Mom to biokids Ponito(10) and his sister Bob(12)
Sibling pair adoptive placement from NE 11/06
Finally finalized on Kitty(14) on 3/08 - 2 weeks before her 13th birthday!
Finalized on her brother Bear(15) on 7/08. He turned 15 the next day.

" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

Torina said...

Wait a second...I'm confused...you mean my daughter's mental illnesses are not MY FAULT??? Wow. Does this mean that the star chart won't cure her bipolar disorder??? Dangit. ;)