Time magazine has posted this pithy piece at their online site and I love their timing. I only wish that they had included the additional truth of how various state CPS agents will comandeer the children of the poor and vulnerable (usually single and struggling mothers) under the thinnest of pretexts in order to have the money-making infants and toddlers to offer to adopters. Their pay-off? Federal $$$$$$.
For those who still think that the ultra-gooey, National Adoption Awareness Month is beneficial for the "sake" of children in the foster care system, read and think again. I still have to wonder how much more truth can be brought to the attention of the American public about adoption before they realize that the Emperor is naked. I have added my own parenthetical comments just because I can! Power is a heady thing.
Is Adoption the Solution?By TIMOTHY ROCHE
Posted Monday, Nov. 13, 2000
To hear federal officials tell it, one of the best solutions to America's foster-care crisis often boils down to one word: adoption. New figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services show that 46,000 foster-care children were legally adopted in 1999, a 28% increase from the previous year's total. Money is part of the picture. For every child adopted beyond the number of adoptions in the previous year, the feds pay the states a bonus of $4,000, to be used for their foster-care and adoption programs. Kids with special needs are worth $6,000. In September federal officials announced that 42 states would receive $20 million in adoption bonuses. (*Who says it isn't about money? *RW)
New regulations have contributed to the rise in adoptions. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 shortened the time for a state to make decisions about a child's placement. In the past, federal inspectors did little more than check necessary paper work to ensure that states were following placement guidelines. Now, however, teams of inspectors will descend upon states to track specific kids and their families. States have up to one year to show, through a court order, that they have made reasonable efforts to develop a permanent plan for reunification or guardianship or adoption.(* Now, there's an idea! Help the family out and keep them together..wow! I wish I'd thought of that. RW) The new regulations, announced in January and phased in throughout the year, have "re-conceptualized" the policies with the intention of requiring "continuous improvement," says HHS Secretary Donna Shalala. For the first time, she says, "we really are going to hold the states' feet to the fire."(*Just like an adopter I read about did to the feet of the child she acquired...she showed that ungrateful little so and so! RW)
Just how the states will respond to the changes in federal law remains to be seen. Some have written new legislation to overhaul their foster-care systems. But many states, like Colorado, face even bigger challenges, because the real control over foster care rests with local agencies, not state officials. Policies vary not only from state to state but also from county to county. "It's part of the Western culture to be independent," says Representative Doug Linkhart, a Colorado Democrat. "But it presents a problem, because the system is so fragmented, and too many things are going wrong because of poor communication."(*What about..the entire concept is flawed, Representative Linkhart? Scrap it all and start over and leave adoption out of the equation for the nonce. RW)
Earlier this year the Governor of Colorado appointed a task force to study reform after three foster kids died in 18 months. What it found was startling: the bureaucracy was so fractured that overburdened state officials had given up trying to inspect all the privately run child-placement agencies. So the state simply granted them permanent licenses, and foster kids suffered.
As it is, however, the new federal policies may engender a whole new set of problems. Critics say the reforms put a bounty on the heads of unwanted children. They fear that timetables tied to disbursement of money may (*May????) keep social workers from trying harder to rehabilitate biological (* As in "REAL"?) parents and reunite families, because government leaders now consider adoption a panacea(!!!). "Skewed financial incentives are the single biggest problem in the entire child-welfare system," says Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. (*Au contraire, Mr. Wexler...the biggest problem is the knee-jerk gravitation to adoption as a cure-all, motivated by the big bucks...read the numbers! RW)
And what happens, asks Rachel Oesterle, an expert with Aid to the Adoption of Special Children, when a foster adoption fails--an incidence that can run as high as 12%? Does the government get its money back from the states? A report for Wexler's coalition says, "States get to keep the money even if an adoption fails. In fact, if they place the same child again, they collect another bounty." Says Wexler: "The bounty is paid when the adoption is finalized, so there is an incentive to place a child with little concern about whether the placement will really last."(*Hmmmmm, says Robin. So someone realizes that adopters return children like defective merchandise and the state agencies still get the bucks...what a concept! *wink)
--By Timothy Roche. With reporting by Melissa August/Washington, Julie Grace/Chicago and Maureen Harrington/Denver
With reporting by Melissa August/Washington, Julie Grace/Chicago and Maureen Harrington/Denver