Category Archive: Adoption

FOSTER/ADOPTIVE PARENTS CAN SAVE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS

FOSTER/ADOPTIVE PARENTS CAN SAVE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS

Many families today who would like to adopt a child are becoming Foster/Adoptive Parents. They are willing to take children temporarily placed in foster homes through the Juvenile Courts. You must be willing to adopt the foster child/children should the parent(s) not reunify. These are children who have been removed from their biological parent(s). The parents are required to participate successfully in reunification services to get their children returned to them. The court has legislated mandates with strict time limits for the parents to reunify with their children. The Legislature does not want foster children languishing in foster homes.

What do you have to do to become a foster parent?
1. Apply for and obtain a Foster Home license. Call your local Health and Human Service Agency or licensed Foster Family Agency in your area to sign up for an orientation;
2. There is a 27-hour Pre-Service training called Trauma Informed Pre-Service required to become a Foster/Adoptive Parent. Each licensed County Foster/Adoptive Parent must also complete 8 hours of approved training per year.
3. After you finish Pre-Service, you will be assigned an Adoption Social Worker. That worker will tell you which of the adoption preparation classes you should complete. Stay in regular touch with your social worker for placement of foster children with you.
4. If a foster child/children are placed with you, fully cooperate with the social worker assigned to the case. Follow their advice regarding taking care of the foster child regarding how to interact with the birth parents and visitations by the birth parents. Follow the court orders. Do not bend the rules for the birth parents unless cleared by your social worker.
5. Take a class called Know the Regulations Avoid Losing Your License. This is a very important class for a foster parent. The worst thing that can happen to you is an allegation of improper conduct or violation of the foster home rules which could cause you to lose your foster child just as you are believing you have a good chance of adopting the foster child. Please review our prior blogs: Foster Parents Beware: No Physical Discipline of Foster Children and Contest the Removal of a Wrongly Removed Foster Child.

By adopting through the Juvenile Court system and having the services of Health and Human Services or the Adoption Agency you are working with, you will save yourself thousands of dollars. You will not have to worry about hiring a lawyer to terminate the parental rights of the birth parents, pay the adoption fee, pay the costs for the adoption filing and court appearances, and pay for a home evaluation.

As a foster parent and adoptive parent, you are entitled to assistance from the County and Federal Government. In California should problems develop with your adopted child you are entitled to Adoption Home Services which can provide for residential placement and counseling services. Your adopted child, since he or she is adopted through the Juvenile Court Dependency system, will be eligible for AB12 benefits for college and living expenses. Please review our previous blogs on Financial Assistance for Foster Parents and Foster Children and Financial Help for College for Adopted Foster Youth.

FOSTER PARENTS BEWARE–NO PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT

Foster parents are not allowed under the law to physically punish their foster children. JuvenileLawCenter.com

In California and most states, foster parents are not legally allowed to use any kind of physical discipline on a foster child. This means that even a light tap on the buttocks to behave is considered a foster home violation. This applies to all foster parents including fost-adopt foster parents.

In California the regulations setting forth that no physical discipline can be used on a foster child can be found at Title 22, California Code of Regulations, Section 89372. The section sets forth…”The caregiver shall ensure that each “child”…To be free from corporal or unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threat, mental abuse, or other actions of a punitive nature including but not limited to interference with the daily living function of eating, sleeping, or toileting, or withholding of shelter, clothing, or aides to physical functioning.” Additionally, Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16001.9 sets forth “Rights of Minors and Nonminors in Foster Care.” It includes the following: “To be free from physical, sexual, emotional, or other abuse, or corporal punishment.”

A parent of a child is entitled to use physical discipline in all the states of the union. This is a constitutional right parents have to raise their children as they see fit. States permit parents to use physical discipline against their children as long as it is done in moderation and does not cause injury. In California, parents are allowed to use reasonable and age-appropriate spanking to the buttocks as long as no serious physical injury to the child occurs. Cal. Welfare&Institution Code, section 300 (a).

Confusion can easily occur with foster parents as to what they can or cannot do in disciplining a foster child. In the training foster parents must take to get a foster home license, I’m sure somewhere in that training foster parents are told that no physical discipline is to be used on a foster child. Sometimes that training could have taken place many years before the family actually gets a foster child. Required yearly continuing education requirements do not include mandatory classes clearly setting out to foster parents what violations of the regulations could lead to loss of the foster home license and removal of the foster child.

Additionally, because parents are entitled to use physical discipline on their children, providers of services to foster parents can mistakenly tell a foster parent it is legal to use reasonable physical discipline on the foster child. Adoption workers provide to foster parents a number of documents to sign and return when they accept a foster child. This is called an Agency/Caregiver Placement Agreement. Foster parents need to carefully read and sign the Agreement, paying special attention to the “Caregiver Agrees To” section. In addition, foster parents should be told directly by the adoption worker at the time of placement that physical discipline of a foster child is not legally permitted and could cause the loss of their foster home license and the removal of the foster child.

MY ADOPTED TEENS ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE

Teen alcohol and drug abuse story

I am an adoptive mother. My daughter started drinking and taking drugs at age 14. I desperately tried to understand my daughter’s outrageous behavior when puberty and junior high began. I thought her problems were due to infant years in her birth home and two years in a foster home until age 4. I came from a home with wonderful parents and three great siblings. My father was in the Navy and my mother stayed home to raise us. I always thought alcoholism was a family disease because you grew up with alcoholic parents and other relatives. I went to Al Anon for help. I learned it was not about genetics but about how every member of the family is affected by someone’s drinking.
Our home looked great on the outside but on the inside it was one crisis after another. The police and/or paramedics were regularly called to our home when her behavior became dangerous to her or us. When our daughter was 8 and our son 11, my husband began having serious heart problems. After four angioplasties he had open heart bypass surgery. He was 48. The stress our daughter brought to our home brought on more heart problems that meant trips to the emergency room and other heart treatments. When she was 12, our son developed epilepsy and had grand mal seizures. One time when she was 14 she took knives into the bathroom threatening to kill herself and kill us in our sleep. We admitted her to a mental facility for help. Following that she was admitted to a residential treatment center. She stayed there for seven months. She constantly ran away from the facility. She would be found and brought back. She began to learn to manipulate us to enable her. This caused great stress for me. I wasn’t going to a pool to exercise. I was not eating properly. My health was being affected.

When our daughter left the residential facility she went to a group home. She ran away from there one night. We made weekly trips to the group home to visit her. She excelled in school. We took her home when she was 17. Within four months she was drinking excessively and dropped out of high school. She had unprotected sex. This led to pregnancies and abortions or miscarriages. My daughter was out of control and I could do nothing about it. We began what was a period of throwing her out of our home, rescuing her and bringing her back in. I remember how furious we would be at her violent and vulgar behavior. We were gullible when she told us she wasn’t using again and was going to get clean if we just take her in.

She got a boyfriend who was 12 years older. He was a felon who introduced her to using meth. They stole from our bank account, stole our jewelry, used our credit card without permission, and stole my son’s truck. My son was so upset by everything he dropped out of college for one semester.

I remembered Al Anon and found a meeting. I was afraid to speak at first as I was so close to tears. I finally introduced myself and told my story through a flood of tears. After the meeting a lady next to me introduced herself. She explained she had three kids on meth and an alcoholic ex-husband. She had an alcoholic father and brother. I asked her to be my sponsor. That was over seven years ago. I had to learn about detaching with love. Sometimes I just wanted to detach with a lot of anger. I learned about acceptance which came to me at different levels. I learned that every time I rescued my daughter it would be that much longer she would be out there. Finally, after being on the streets, she got into a recovery home. I told her I loved her.

I wish I could tell you how wonderfully things worked out. She gave us an adorable granddaughter. We have cared for her on and off since she was three months old. CPS had custody of her for a couple of years. Fortunately we now have her with us. She does not want to be with her parents. We are pursuing legal custody. My adopted daughter and the baby’s father tried to parent, but they both reverted back to drugs and homelessness. Neither is able to care for themselves or someone else.

INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION OF A TEEN

International Adoption of a Teen

Nine years ago, my husband and I decided to adopt from Ukraine. One reason for adopting internationally was a connection to Ukraine as my husband is 100% Ukranian. We turned to an international adoption because it just seemed like a lot of children were available. It seemed to be an easier choice. During the first international adoption, no one really told us anything negative except that we were about a year away from actually bringing a child home. Paperwork takes time. No one told us that there were benefits for children in the foster care system in the US and that international adoptive children could not receive these benefits. All we were told was that we will eventually become parents.

Our first adoption was a 3-year-old boy. At first, he did not trust us, was angry and scared of us, and did not want to visit with us when we would go see him at the orphanage. It was heartbreaking for us and we wondered if we had made a mistake not asking more questions in how to deal with these things. Things did get better once we got home and settled into a routine. He was only 3 years old when he came home with us so it was easier to change some of his bad habits. He began to trust us almost immediately. He really loved us and still does.

We decided to go back and adopt an 11-year-old boy we had met previously. Adopting an 11-year-old was a much different experience. We had family members to deal with in Ukraine as well as some pretty awful behavior. We tried to douse him with love every minute, but he didn’t want anything to do with us. Then, one day things switched and he became so clingy that I felt like I had a toddler instead of a pre-teen. When we first arrived back home, he could not speak English. We put him in English tutoring and enrolled him in school. He quickly made one friend and clung to that friend for dear life. His performance at school and at home was difficult at first. He seemed to finally start to enjoy our affections about a year after living with us. The next few years were a roller coaster ride. After four years, things started to get tense at home. He started arguing and being disrespectful and saying we were too strict.

After his fourth year at American school, summer rolled around and he was not interested in doing anything. The first week off school he laid on his bedroom floor and stared at the ceiling. He refused to talk to anyone or go outside. After a week went by, I finally convinced him to attend junior lifeguard counseling training. It was a long Summer for him.

School finally started and he was angry about everything. By the end of the first week of school, he let us know that he was going to do whatever he wanted and stay out as late as he felt like. He was now going to be the boss. He ended up leaving home for three months. He would stay with friends. We don’t know where he stayed most nights. He started to ditch classes here and there but never a whole day. We called the police and they said they could not help because he was not a run away or a missing person because he was going to school. Eventually, he broke into our house, stole a car, and threatened to kill my husband and himself because we had ruined his life. He was picked up by the police immediately and placed in Juvenile Hall.

He spent over two months in Juvenile Hall waiting for three different court dates. He has been committed to a residential group home. We would have had to pay thousands a month for his expenses at the group home, but we were able to get a Welfare & Institutions 903 (e) ruling which specifically states that we were not responsible for any expenses incurred during his stay since we were the victims of his crimes.

We expect he will be in and out of residential placements, until he is 19 years of age or older. Fortunately for him, he is eligible for financial help from the California Fostering Youth Act. See the blogs posted on the JuvenileLawCenter.com website Financial Assistance for Foster Parents and Foster Children San Diego County and Financial Help For College for Adopted Foster Youth.

FINANCIAL HELP FOR ADOPTED GRANDCHILDREN WHO WERE NOT PREVIOUSLY FOSTER CHILDREN

Financial assistance for adopted grandchildren.

This blog is directed to grandparents who have adopted one or more of their grandchildren or step-grandchildren who were not previously foster children. If they were foster children prior to adoption, please review our blog entitled Financial Help for Adopted Foster Youth.

If grandparents have adopted their grandchildren, the grandchildren may be eligible for Social Security benefits if one of the grandparents has applied for Social Security benefits.

Social Security will pay benefits to grandchildren when a grandparent retires, becomes disabled, or dies if certain conditions apply:
(1) the grandchild be legally adopted by the grandparent(s);
(2) in addition, the grandchild must have begun living with a grandparent before age 18; (3) received at least one half of his or her support from the grandparent for the year before the month grandparent became entitled to retirement. If a year has not passed or the baby or the grandchild was born during the year, the grandparent should consult with Social Security as to when they can first claim benefits for the grandchild.

For example, if the adoptive grandparent with the most Social Security benefits gets $2000 a month, a grandchild is entitled to approximately 50% of that amount per month.

Your adopted grandchildren can collect benefits if they are unmarried and younger than 18 years old, or between 18 and 19 years old and a full-time secondary school student, or age 18 or older and severely disabled. The disability must have started before age 22.

If there is more than one adopted grandchild, the benefit amount for the adopted grandchildren is subject to the limits of the family allowance. Family allowance is generally equal to about 150% to 180% of the grandparent’s Social Security benefit

Grandparents who have a legal guardianship of their grandchildren and the grandchildren were not previous foster children are entitled to claim welfare benefits for their grandchildren. The income and assets of the grandparents are not a bar to collecting welfare for their grandchildren when they have a legal guardianship..

Family members that can collect Social Security benefits include a widow or widower who is 60 or older, or is 50 or older and disabled, or is any age if he or she is caring for your child who is younger than 16 or disabled and entitled to associate Social Security benefits on your record.

A very helpful website which explains all the possible Social Security benefits is:
www. socialsecurity.gov

FINANCIAL HELP FOR COLLEGE FOR ADOPTED FOSTER YOUTH

College financial assistance for foster youth.

Adoption Assistance Payments (AAP) Program and College

In 2012, due to the passage of California Fostering Connections to Success Act, there were some additional changes

· A youth, regardless of age of entry into the AAP Program, may continue to receive           AAP up until the age of 21 if he/she has a physical or mental disability that warrants continuing assistance beyond age 18 and up until 21

· Youth who do not have a physical or mental disability and who began to receive AAP payments BEFORE reaching 16 years of age will receive AAP until the age of 18.

· Effective January 1, 2012, youth who began to receive AAP payments AFTER reaching 16 years of age may be eligible for extended AAP benefits beyond age 18 and up until age 21, as long as the youth meets one of the participation conditions.

The youth has to be doing one of the following:
· Completing high school or equivalent program (GED); OR
· Enrolled in college, community college or a vocational educational program (at least half-time status); OR
· Employed at least 80 hours a month (this must be paid employment); OR
· Participating in a program or activity designed to remove barriers to employment (this is the “safety net” category which is intended to capture all youth who are not eligible under employment or education conditions); OR
· Unable to do one of the above requirements because of a medical condition (short or long term medical or mental health condition as verified by a health practitioner but youth does not have to be currently seeking treatment)

The adoptive parent is responsible for requesting the AAP extension beyond the age of 18 and providing documentation to the responsible public agency supporting that the youth meets one of the five participating criteria. The adoptive parent is also responsible for reporting any changes when the youth is no longer meeting one of the five participation criteria. Youth receiving extended AAP benefits are permitted to live in a college dorm as long as the adoptive parents continue to provide care and support to the young person. In most cases, these youth cannot receive the payment directly. The payment will continue to go to the adoptive parent.

Money for College

Step 1: Fill out your FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) before the March 2nd deadline. The sooner the better. January 1 of the new year is the first day to complete the application. Completing the FASFA makes you eligible for different types of financial aid such as a Pell Grant, a Cal Grant and a Chafee Grant. It also makes you eligible for EOPS. EOPS is a program that will give you extra money for books and a free parking pass. EOPS also helps you navigate through the college process. When filing the FASFA, make sure to check the former foster youth box.

Students are eligible to receive a Cal Grant which covers up to $5970 at CSUs, $12,192 at UCs and $9223 toward a private college. Community college students can receive a Pell Grant in the amount of $5726 for the year. The amount is based on full-time status. If you don’t attend full time, you would receive less financial aid. EOPS gives $175 toward books and a free parking pass.
The Chafee Grant is only for foster youth or former foster youth. It has a separate application and isn’t guaranteed. It is difficult to get but worth a try. You can receive up to $5000 a year. Go online to fill it out then visit your financial aid office to follow up.
Every campus has a foster youth liaison. It would be a good idea to make an appointment to meet with him/her ASAP. They are full of information. Also, being a former foster youth gives you priority registration thus making it easier to get the classes you want.

This blog was written by Julie Neri, a secondary school teacher in San Diego County. She is a foster mother and adoptive mother of a foster child. Please read our previous blog titled Financial Assistance for Foster Parents and Foster Children San Diego County.

Websites:
www.cacollegepathways.org
www.cafosteringconnections.org/extended-foster-care-general/
www.cafosteringconnections.org/extended-adoption-assistance-program/
www.johnburtonfoundation.org
www.nrcpfc.org/fostering_connections/
http://calswec.berkeley.edu/fostering-connections-after-18-ab-12-training-resources
www.dss.cahwnet.gov/lettersnotices/PG931.htm

CHILD WELFARE SERVICE SAFETY PLANS CAN BE GOOD, CAN BE DECEPTIVE, OR CAN BE DEADLY

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When a child abuse report is made to the Child Abuse Hotline an emergency services worker is assigned to investigate the referral.  Depending on the threat level reported it might be an immediate visit to your home or a visit that takes place several days later.  The emergency protective worker (CPS) can, after investigating, leave your child in your custody but ask you to sign and agree to a Safety Plan.  If you don’t agree to the Safety Plan you are told they will most probably initiate a child dependency case in juvenile court and your children will be taken from your home.

Safety Plans Can Be Good

For example, the police are called to a home because of reported domestic violence between the parents.  There are minor children in the home.  They may or may not have witnessed the incident(s) between the parents.  The father was arrested and taken to jail.  He may face criminal charges.  The Child Protective Services (CPS) worker will want to make sure the father, if he bails out of custody, does not return to the home and further violence take place.  The mother may be requested to get a Family Court restraining order against her husband.  The mother will be told there can be no visits by the father with the children until some form of supervised visitation can be arranged and those visits cannot supervised by mother.  Mother is told the Safety Plan is for 30 days.  In the above scenario the alleged abusive parent could have been the wife.  These types of scenarios, whether for domestic violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, someone else in the home causing violence, sex and physical abuse allegations, or mental health concerns, play out on a daily basis in our communities.  As a general rule, if the police are called to the home and there are minor children in the home that might potentially be at risk a child abuse referral will be made by the police to the local CPS agency.

Safety Plans Can Be Deceptive

In the above scenario, if the mother agreed to the Safety Plan the children will  remain with her for the time being.  What the mother is not told is the plan she signed is a Temporary Safety Plan. CPS has no intention of walking away from this family at the end of 30 days. Safety Plans generally are for six months and depending on the progress of the family can be re-initiated for another six months.  If the family refuses to sign up for another six months, the CPS agency is likely to start juvenile dependency proceedings in the local Juvenile Court and allege your children are at risk in your home and most likely try to have them removed.

The first CPS worker to come to the home is an emergency response worker.  They will turn your case over to another CPS worker who will then start the interview and evaluation process all over again.  If the second CPS worker and their supervisors are okay with the initial Safety Plan, they will have the family sign a second Safety Plan.  This second Safety Plan document will not have anything on it saying it is for 30 days.

Safety Plans Can Be Deadly If Violated

A number of families are lulled into believing that once the 30 days of the initial Safety Plan have passed that the family can reunite and everything is the same as it was before.  WRONG!  Because CPS workers don’t reside in your home they want to make sure you are abiding by the terms and intent of the Safety Plan.  As soon as they see you are violating the terms or intent of the plan, they can stop the process, take your children, report to the court you were offered a Safety Plan and that you intentionally violated it.  You say the 30 days had passed, nobody specifically told me my husband, wife, son, or whomever was asked to leave, could not return home so I let them back in the home.  You will be told you should have known better so too bad.  You are told another CPS worker would be contacting you.  Without waiting to be contacted, you should contact CPS to ask what you should do. They will say you let the offending parent or other person back in the home or allowed them to visit the children when you were told they could not.  We cannot trust you or your judgment.

What Should A Parent Do?

1.  You want to keep custody of your children.  Co-operate with and agree to the Safety Plan.  Abide by the conditions no matter how unfair you think they may be.  Don’t be fooled into thinking the Safety Plan is only for 30 days.  Until a CPS worker tells you it is allowed, do not start allowing something you agreed not to do.  If you lose temporary custody of your kids to CPS and the Court, you could end up losing them for good.  If you cannot reach your CPS worker or have not heard from one since the initial visit, call the CPS office.  Talk to a CPS Supervisor to find out whose is assigned to your case and what you should do.

2.  Consult with an experienced lawyer who deals with these kinds of cases.  Call your local Lawyer/Attorney Referral Service and get a recommendation for a lawyer(s).  Generally they will do a brief free consultation with you on the phone.  Until the case gets to court you will not have the services of an appointed lawyer/public defender to assist you.  Many CPS workers will tell you if the matter gets to court there are court assigned lawyers who can help you.  The most crucial time for help is when you get that first visit from a social worker and sign that initial Safety Plan.  You desperately need good advice as to how you should proceed with CPS.

3.  Safety Plans can be modified as you and your family progress in services.  Seek consultation with an experienced lawyer to assist in trying to get the plan modified.  CPS has guidelines for their workers as to how to handle specific types of cases.  They can be rigid, onerous and seem very unfair to many parents.  In many domestic violence cases, the parents are told they must split up, get a restraining order, have no contact between them, and the father/mother cannot visit the children unless CPS or someone they choose supervises the visits.  Parents without legal consultation think their situations do not warrant such burdensome/unfair conditions and sneak visits.  CPS will find out.  They will then take your kids and you will have a much steeper uphill battle getting them back.  Far too many cases, when parents violate the Safety Plans, end up with the parents losing their parental rights and their kids being put up for adoption.  Don’t be fooled by misinformation or taking too lightly what is being required of you.