Peter A. Kenny's Adoption and Foster Care Law Blog

Ten Good Reasons to Adopt a Teen

May 8, 2018

Why older foster children think teen adoption is a great idea:

  1. No formula, diapers, bottles, or burp rags are required.
  2. We sleep through the night—even if our parents won’t.
  3. We will be ready to move out sooner. But we will always come home to visit.
  4. We can program your cell phone and VCR and help run your computer.
  5. We will keep you up to date with the latest trends and fashions.
  6. Once we get our permits, we can drive you to places.
  7. You don’t just get a child; you get a friend.
  8. We can pick up after ourselves and do our laundry.
  9. We will teach you to be more patient, understanding, kind, and empathetic.
  10. We all need someone to share our life dreams, achievements, and holidays with.

(Adapted from: You Gotta Believe!)

Click to see children waiting to be adopted in Indiana (source: state of Indiana)

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Tony Dungy on Adoption

April 24, 2018

“As a football coach, I always had to be ready to overcome unexpected challenges. With injuries, crowd noise, and especially weather, the game plan is always adjusting to adversity.

November was National Adoption Month, and I hope this spirit remains strong in our hearts. Just as many families leaned on neighbors’ hospitality for shelter in the wake of hurricane Irma, many children across the United States are waiting for someone to become their hero through foster care or adoption.

We know that children do better when they feel safe and loved. As adoptive and foster parents, my wife Lauren and I have witnessed the transformative effect of welcoming children into our home.

I am always humbled when former players thank me years later after I coached them. Usually they mention how grateful they were for an opportunity. Though the joy I gained from mentoring young people far outweighs what I can give.

The same is true in fostering and adoption. Being a dad is my best job and my family is the greatest team. If you believe every child deserves a safe, loving home, contact your local child welfare agency about children available in your state.”

Tony Dungy was the head football coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2002 through 2008. They qualified for the playoffs every year and in 2007, defeated the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. More importantly, as he says in his letter, he and his wife are the parents of seven children. This message was adapted from his letter of 11-15-17 to the Tampa Bay Times.

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On Being an Adoptive Dad

April 10, 2018

My father, Dr. Jim Kenny, wrote the following piece on my brother and sister for this law blog.

As a mere male, I am not lucky enough to have the equipment to bear a child, and the satisfaction of giving birth. But fortunately, four of our children are adopted. Planning for and seeing my new child for the first time was my male birth experience. I vividly recall “The First Time Ever I Saw your Face.” (Roberta Flach’s hit folk song from the seventies)

Tracy was eight months old when she joined us from the Children’s Home in Germany. We were driving home on the autobahn in our VW beetle from Friedrichshafen to Wiesbaden. We were alone in a blinding blizzard. I was trying to keep my eyes peeled to the road while constantly looking to my right to see our new daughter snuggled tightly in Mary’s lap.

We flew to Quebec City to greet and collect our second daughter. Annie, our new eight-month-old, was sitting in a high chair inside the nursery. I rapped on the nursery window. She rewarded me with an endearing wide-mouth smile which she still flashes 49 years later.

Sharon had been in four foster homes by age 15 months. Mary and I and ten smaller Kennys came to Catholic Charities in Gary to welcome her and take her home. I will never forget her standing there solemnly, holding her caseworker’s hand. Finally, she let go, raising her right arm and fist to give us the black power salute. What a beginning! Many years later, Sharon asked us for the date she was adopted, telling Mary: “I want to celebrate my re-birthday.”

We were taking turns holding four-month-old Matt in church on a weekend trial visit. With us in the pew were our seven sons. In the reading that day, we heard that Samuel was sent by God to the house of Jesse to select a new king to replace Saul. Jesse had seven sons. One by one, Samuel met with them and remained unsatisfied. Finally, he asked if Jesse had any other sons. Jesse pondered, then mentioned a rather insignificant offspring who was out tending the sheep. He was told to summon the outsider, and in walked David, the famous and future king of Israel. I got chills. What a beginning! His name is Matthew David Kenny. Years later, Matt would compare his adoption to winning the lottery.

Our youngest granddaughter was adopted from Indiana foster care at age 6. She has a favorite book which she asks to have read to her over and over. It bears a title which well describes what being an adoptive dad means for me: “I‘ll love you forever. I’ll love you for always. As long as I’m living, my child you’ll be.”

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Hints on Handling Your New Foster Child

March 27, 2018

In my last blog entry, I asked you to imagine welcoming your new ten-year-old foster son. He certainly feels alone and scared and may express that by acting cocksure, or more likely quiet and reserved at first. From a psychologist who was also a foster parent, here are a few hints on how you might respond.

First of all, relax. Take your time to get to know him. He comes with life experiences that shape the way he views the world. That includes you.

You and your new foster son will spend the first few weeks checking out one another. Problem behavior need not be tolerated, but you can correct unacceptable behavior without demeaning his person. Remember, he may already have the idea that he is bad. When correcting him, statements like “I feel bad when…” and “we don’t do that here” are a better way to communicate.

Beginning your complaint with “you…” followed with a statement that assigns personal blame may only reinforce an already poor self-image. Focusing on stopping the problem behavior is a wiser approach than making a judgment about your new young man.

Be careful of overdoing verbal love and praise. He may not understand your intentions and may even become angry. Let your caring and love show by providing food, shelter, and a consistent home life. At the same time, comment when he does something worthwhile.

Start keeping a daily journal. Take a few minutes to jot down incidents of interest. This will be useful in case conferences, in court, and in later preparing a “Life Book” if you wish. This can also help you evaluate your own parenting by taking note of what works and what doesn’t.

Give your son some household task to do. Something simple, like making his bed, picking up his room, caring for a pet, or some other basic chore. Put your expectations on a chart or in writing. Be appreciative but don’t accept poor workmanship.

Finally, while eating, sleeping, living, and playing together, set a good example. Keep your word. Be on time. Don’t use language that he shouldn’t use.

Adjusting to a new family member is always difficult, for both sides. Be patient with him. And with yourself.

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