Within Little Flower’s Family Foster Care department is our adoption team, which is responsible for finding forever families for children who are unable, for a variety of reasons, to return to their own families. Here is an inside look, as told by the adoption expediter, Jennifer P., about the work she does day in and day out to ensure stability, safety and a loving home for our kids.
As the adoption expediter for Little FIower, my work begins as soon as it is determined that a child will not be able to return home and the termination of parental rights (TPR) phase of the case begins. What this means is that when it is decided that a child cannot be returned to their birth parent, we file a TPR Petition with the court. Usually, the child is already living in an adoptive foster home.
There is a lot of paperwork involved with filing an adoption in a New York court: medical evaluations, fingerprint clearances, marital documents, various affidavits and petitions, adoption subsidy applications, an Adoption Homestudy, and much more. All paperwork is gathered into a packet and sent to the adoption attorney as well as scanned and uploaded into Little Flower’s internal system (CAS).
A typical day in the office consists of some or all of the following:
- Writing adoption homestudies – a screening of the home and life of prospective adoptive parents, which can include family background, employment history, determination of past abuse, criminal background check, finances, medical history and a physical description of the home. The cleanliness and condition of the home, sanitation, fire safety and well-being of the neighborhood in which the home is located are noted and considered. The desire and motivation to adopt, the understanding of the relationship between adoptive parents and children and the relationship with the birth family and willingness to maintain those ties are also taken into account. Including a psycho-social of the adoptive child, a homestudy can be as long as 10 pages,
- Preparing adoption subsidy applications – adoption subsidies are a NYS program that provides a monthly stipend to adoptive parents and include Medicaid. These are sent to NYS for approval,
- Submitting clearance forms,
- Collecting original documents such as birth certificates and marital documents,
- Getting documents signed by various people involved in the process,
- And gathering other materials as necessary from the foster parent, adoptive parent and Little Flower staff.
I make home visits to the adoptive families as part of the process. Most live within the city, a few have lived upstate. Visits in the home usually take about two hours. During a visit, I review all homestudy information with the family and everyone who lives in the home. I explain the entire process to them and answer any questions they may have. We discuss the adoption subsidy, which they sign, in addition to other forms. The families then have the opportunity to select an adoption attorney.
If a case is out of state, and I am unable to physically conduct the homestudy, I work with a local agency in that state to request an interstate approval. These cases can be challenging because everything is done by mail.
Many of the foster/adoptive parents are very cooperative and pleasant to work with. Some can be difficult because they are either angry or frustrated with the process; some are reluctant to divulge personal information required for the homestudy. But in the end, everyone wants the same thing for the child – to be a permanent member of the family.
Aside from all of the paperwork, I sometimes serve as a mediator and friendly face for frustrated and angry foster parents. They often become confused with the various workers and attorneys they have to deal with, what goes on in court and all the requests placed upon them by the agency. I have found that being an active listener and letting them vent can ease their frustration. Communication is key and I do my best to explain everything so they understand what is happening, the process and how everything works.
Every year the Administration for Children Services (ACS) sets a goal of how many adoptions Little Flower must finalize during the fiscal year. This year (July 1, 2017 –June 30, 2018) our goal was 41 adoptions – I’m happy to report that we have exceeded that goal by providing loving homes for 48 children!