Peter A. Kenny's
Adoption and Foster Care Law Blog
Here, I write about foster parenting and legal issues related to foster care and adoption.
New posts come twice a month.
Articles by Category
I have dozens of articles, so please select the category you find most interesting.
How to successfully navigate the complicated adoption process
What you can do to best help your foster child
Ideas from an attorney and a psychologist on how to raise foster and adopted children
The joys and the challenges of adoption and foster care in story and poetry
What a lawyer can do to for you, how to prepare for court, and other legal issues
Subscribe by Email
Get news on foster parenting and legal issues related to foster care and adoption.
Sent twice a month. Free of charge.
Complete List of Articles
Attorney Peter Kenny announces the publication of his third book: Making a Difference: Foster Care and Adoption. His book contains over 70 single-page topics, all of which are of major interest to foster and adoptive parents. The book is inspiring, and practical, a quick and easy read.
It’s not always the big things that affirm foster and adoptive parents. Here are four everyday moments that different foster parents I know found memorable.
Several parents have asked for suggestions about children’s books that especially relate to foster and adopted children. Here are my favorites.
A strong sense of humor is a necessary survival tool for foster parents. Here are three of many examples shared by my foster parent friends.
The family meal has historically served two very important functions. It has provided better nutrition and it offers a major time when parents and children can relate to one another. So sit down and eat together when that is possible. But if not, here are a few other ideas.
James Russell Lowell, in his epic poem, "The Vision of Sir Launfal", writes of a knight who goes off in search of the cup which Jesus shared with his followers at his last supper.
My husband and I recently adopted our beautiful two-year-old son. When I share this amazing news with people, I sometimes get a response that, well, stings.
Where to go and what to do in Indiana for foster families.
Be gentle with yourself. You are your child’s biggest and best resource. Remember when you first get on a plane? The stewardess is giving safety instructions. In case of emergency, if you are traveling with a small child, she tells you to put on your own oxygen mask first. Without you, your child may be lost.
When this single grandmother adopted her two young grandchildren, that was occasion to celebrate-- special enough to write a poem.
Imagine you are awaiting the results of your breast exam or prostate test. You call daily but they still don’t have the results. What are you thinking, feeling?
I hope these quotes about adoption inspire you like they have inspired me.
You have adopted a child with a disability. Normally, the child's Medicaid and per diem payments, funded by the federal Adoption Assistance Program (AAP), continue till age 18. Can you get them extended until age 21? Yes, but it’s somewhat complicated. Here's how.
In a plastic and often hollow world, you are the real people. You are doing it, giving without recompense. Lovers in a me-first world. Like Pinocchio and the weathered and worn Velveteen Rabbit, it is your loving that makes you real.
Research has clearly shown that delay in achieving permanence is not in the child’s best interest. Time is the enemy of a growing and developing child.
The US government offers a one-time non-refundable tax credit to adopting parents for expenses incurred in the process. Most Indiana foster-to-adopt parents receive a post-adoption subsidy paid by the state. If that is the case...
There are as many answers as there are adoptive parents. Each person has their own story, their own personal motives. Here are a few ideas from past clients that have inspired me.
Taking away their cellphones and forbidding access is not usually a wise strategy. In addition to preventing contact with their peers and searching for useful information, it may foster resentment and encourage sneakiness. Here are four approaches which may help you monitor cellphones and computer use without appearing to take over.
An overview of how to become a foster parent in Indiana. The process appears more complicated than it actually is.
Foster care payments are reimbursement for the daily costs of raising a child, and are not considered taxable income by the IRS. Having a foster child in the home does not change the family’s status for receiving food stamps.
By Mary Kenny
I am so unfulfilled I have a house a car a job a loving spouse But I have no child. I need a child- I need a child so I can grow- Maybe I should adopt. *** I am so blessed I have a home a car a job a loving spouse But I have no child. I have so much to share. I need to help a child- Help a child to grow- Maybe I should adopt.
Foster parents, like other people, learn best from experience. Which means that those new to fostering are at a disadvantage. Even if they have already raised children of their own, Foster parenting presents some unique challenges.
A friend of mine complained that his eleven- and thirteen-year-old foster sons frequently spiced their talk with crude sexual and violent words.
Your new foster child appears at your door, frequently with nothing more than bare essentials.
To raise consciousness about how a child feels at that moment, here is a memorable exercise that has been used during foster parent training. To begin, the leader asks you to write down on five separate slips of paper the five things you value most.
Five-year-olds and up are capable of learning and performing several household chores.
"We have had our five-year-old foster daughter for six months and are hoping to adopt her. She causes no trouble but is like a shy little mouse with few words and big eyes. How can we break through and communicate with her?"
Frequently at foster parent gatherings the organizers will trot out a young man or woman who grew up in foster care and is now educated and successful in a career as a teacher, writer, or in another productive field. This child would be a high achiever in any field, but remains unusual. Most adopted children, like all developing youngsters, are works in progress.
“We have had our foster child for almost two years and nothing seems to be happening. Mother makes a little progress and then relapses. How long will this go on? When does the state give up on reunification and look for another permanent home?”
“Constantly in motion. That’s our first-grader, Jonny. If I can get him to stop for a minute, he stays poised on the edge of his seat, ready to run off as soon as I say okay….His mind is just as undisciplined, jumping from one thought to another. Homework time is a nightmare. His doctor prescribed medication to calm him without much success. Any ideas?”
One simple and meaningful way to get to know your foster/adopted child is to help him or her collect their history in pictures and stories in their own homemade personal book. Whether you are able to adopt the child or not, a picture-story book will become a treasure for a child who lacks “possessions.”
The child fares better when foster parents and the birth parent can get along. Mutual distrust and hostility, often based on a lack of information, serve no one. You don’t have to agree with one another. But foster parents do need to withhold judgment. And show courtesy and respect for the person.
To paraphrase the former Peace Corps slogan, foster parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. You have chosen a difficult path. Instead of a big cheering section, you are likely to face problems, and even be blamed unfairly when things go wrong.
We were attending Grandparents’ Day at the elementary school of our youngest grandchildren. Several of the children were showing pictures of themselves as babies being held and admired by their grandparents. “I don’t have any baby pictures,” my young granddaughter said matter-of-factly. “I don’t know what I looked like when I was a baby.”
Why older foster children think teen adoption is a great idea:
“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.”
My father, Dr. Jim Kenny, wrote the following article on how he felt about being the adoptive father of my brother and three sisters.
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.
Imagine your new foster son has just come in the door. His name is Eric, he is ten years old, and is clutching a paper sack holding everything he owns. Not much. You greet him warmly and tell him he is welcome. But you don’t really know him. All you have to go by are your expectations. Here are a few thoughts you might consider.
Caseworkers and DCS conferences do not have the final word about removal, placement, and possible adoption of Indiana children in foster care. Courts are where these ultimate decisions are made. Foster parents have rights to be heard in court.
My father, Dr. Jim Kenny, with the help of an artist from Stone Belt in Indiana, recently wrote a children’s story about a little monkey who loses both parents and begins searching the jungle, looking for them. After many adventures, he discovers a family of chimpanzees who offer him a permanent home. Little Lost Monkey is a foster-to-adopt story.
Here is our definition which has been used to support adoption in many courts throughout the US: “Bonding is a significant reciprocal attachment which both parties want and expect to continue, and is interrupted at peril to the parties involved.” Interrupted bonding is strongly correlated with adult mental illness, crime, poverty, and homelessness. Bonding can be demonstrated by 24/7the amount of time spent together, by community support, and by statements from the parties involved.
A cooperative adoption allows for some continuing post-adoption contact. This usually involves a nominal offering of information about the child and/or the exchange of cards, letters and photos. Less frequently, personal visits may be permitted on special occasions. It may make sense when the birth parent fears giving up all future connection with her child.
A Middle School teacher began the following story and asked his students to make up an ending: One child’s story finished very differently.
“My pre-teen-age boys get into fights regularly,” complained one foster parent. “It’s hard to stop them. My caseworker warns me against punishment. Help!”
The strongest material you can have in advocating for your foster child is a well-documented daily journal. Keeping a daily journal assists you when reporting to the Child Welfare Department or advocating for your foster child at case conferences and at court hearings, especially adoption. When opinions are divided, your journal provides you with reasons and documentation for your views.
Whatever happened to the old adage: “Experience is the best teacher”? Most would agree that is true. So why the heavy reliance on agency-run workshops or classes for foster parent training? Parenting can be learned and improved in several ways.
For too many people, discipline is equated with punishment. This creates a special problem for foster children who have already suffered from abuse and neglect. In actual fact, punishment is a rather ineffective method for obtaining compliance. There are other methods that work better. Here are a few ideas.
Many different subsidies are available for Indiana foster parents who wish to adopt. They include continuing your monthly payments, providing health insurance, reimbursing you for some of your adoption expenses, a federal income tax credit, and help with college tuition. Your new child is entitled to all the financial support that is offered.
My mother’s wrote: “We raised twelve children, both ‘homemade’ and adopted. People often ask me how I did it. But then I met Ralph. Ralph is the one who makes me ask, ‘How do you do it?’”
I want to share Carol Lynn Pearson’s moving poem on adoption.
You may have been thinking about adoption. How does a family go about making that decision? Like marriage, adoption involves a lifetime commitment. Not a step to take lightly.
Here are a few thoughts about when and why foster parents might benefit from legal help.
My admiration for what foster and adoptive parents do is boundless. I am honored to be their attorney. They have tackled the toughest job I can imagine, offering their home to already damaged youngsters who may well take out their misdirected anger on the “new” parents.
The Kenny Law Blog will offer a brief twice-monthly comment on issues of interest to foster parents, especially those who are considering adoption.
When one lecturer recently asked a group of foster parents what behavior they would most like to eliminate in their child’s repertoire, lying led the list. “It’s a betrayal of family trust,” declared one father. “How can you ever trust him if you never know whether you are getting the truth?”
Lying frustrates foster parents like no other behavior because it appears totally within the child’s control. Because this is so obvious, long lectures on the importance of truth are a waste of breath. Instead, focus on obtaining the desired result. Good discipline focuses on solving the problem. Bad discipline attacks and belittles the child while trying to control his or her mind.
While children may lie to exaggerate or to get attention, the two reasons of most concern to parents are to avoid incriminating themselves and to gain an advantage. Our Supreme Court in 1966 (Miranda vs. Arizona) answered the first reason by declaring that no person is obliged to confess or incriminate themselves.
Parenting becomes much simpler if we extend this privilege to our children. Don’t ask them. Instead, gather what evidence is available and then take precautions. If items are missing, conduct a room search. Frisk them before they leave for school or to play. And don’t tempt them. Secure your valuables like money, credit cards, jewelry, electronic devices, and other portable possessions.
The second reason children (and adults) lie is to get their way. As one foster teen told his parents: “If I told you where I was really going, you would have said no.” The best way to handle this attempt to mislead is to take away the payoff. If your foster teen is not where he said he was going to be, you can no longer trust his word. As the proverb says: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Don’t lecture or make a big deal of it. No need to punish. Instead, from now on, you must check up on him. Check discreetly with the other parents to learn if your Sally was really invited for an overnight. Ask the school to notify you whenever he misses school or a class, even if he comes with a note the next day. He may be resourceful enough to have written his own excuse.
The consequence for lying is a loss of trust. No need for grounding or taking away of privileges in a usually unsuccessful attempt to get at the truth. No need to give up on your foster child. Instead, you have simply adopted a more realistic style of parenting and can go on affirming other good qualities.
The primary goal of the new Family First Preventive Services Act (10/19) is to avoid foster care when possible by keeping mother and child together in the home. Minimal federal funds are authorized for up to12 months to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment for parents and for pregnant foster children. Keeping the original family together with help is a worthy goal. As a psychologist friend of mine remarked: “If the abuse is serious enough to remove a child in the first place, then chances of reunification should be slim.”
Unfortunately, Family First also eliminates ASFA’s 15-month deadline for the birth mother to get her act together before a termination of parental rights must be filed. Early experiences of being moved and re-moved become locked in place and set negative patterns for life. Better to protect the child in the home before removal. But if the child must be separated, a good caseworker should give the parent(s) a focused plan for reunification within 24 hours of separation. That is good for the birth mother. And there must be a reasonable deadline. That best serves the developing child who cannot wait indefinitely.
The Reunification Plan must be specific about addressing the causes for removal. If mother misused substances, she must overcome her addiction. If her boyfriend abused the child, she must get rid of him. If her child was unsupervised, she must be present for him or her. And so on. The case manager can help her connect with appropriate treatment resources.
Then don’t wait around for mother to improve. Monitor her progress weekly. This may provide the strong motivation that mother needs. If mother is still not ready to be a parent after 15 months, it is time to find a family who can.read more
My foster son wants to work. What kind of job should he get for starters and how can I help him?
I assume that he is younger than 18. First jobs are important. They represent a child’s first contact with the work world outside the home, offering an education into basic human skills.
You don’t need to attend job fairs or scour the newspapers. You help him the same way you would help your birth child. If he is under age 16, I suggest you consider the needs of your friends and neighbors. Jobs for babysitters, mowing lawns, helping with a move, and similar short-term tasks are usually available within the community. And they are often well paid. One well-done job will lead to another.
For youngsters 16 to 18, I recommend that you continue with the basics. Help your foster child focus on those skills that involve getting along with others, resolving problems with co-workers and customers, doing an acceptably good job at cleaning, cooking, or meeting the public. Let the specific career skills await graduation from high school.
Where might you find these jobs? Most young people want to work in the fast food industry, a burger house or ice cream parlor where their friends congregate. Don’t look down on such jobs. That is where you learn to meet and get along with lots of new people. Other possibilities include grocery stores, other retail shops, or seasonal work.
Your foster child will learn through trial and error how to meet the expectations of his employers. He will have the opportunity to develop social skills outside the family in a give-and-take world. Getting along with “strangers” in a work environment can help develop a learned ability that cannot be taught in the classroom. It can only come from experience.read more
Foster dad got a call from the Middle School principal. His two foster sons, Trevor and Kevin, were peddling some dried substance they have relabeled as marijuana. Mom has been missing her home-grown herbs. So that’s where the herbs had gone… Jadon’s two older brothers were missing money and seven-year-old Jadon was suddenly “rich.” He said he found it….Foster mom is missing some of her favorite jewelry. She suspects her teenage foster daughter of taking it but Harmony professed her innocence. What to do?
Often, the foster parents become angry, feeling we have provided a safe home and this is how we are repaid. Then perhaps, based on minimal evidence, they revert to a lecture, even to yelling and punishment. They may even threaten to return the child to the DCS pool.
A better approach is to begin with prevention. You are taking a damaged child into your home. Don’t tempt him or her. Instead, secure your valuables.
Then if things still go missing, invite a confession. If you fail to get one, respect the child’s right not to self-incriminate. Instead, gather information and come to the best decision possible, recognizing that truth is elusive and one can never be one hundred percent certain, not even with a forced confession.
Blaming the “thief” labels him or her as a bad person, and is usually ineffective at changing behavior. Consequences are the simplest and best discipline for theft Better to prevent the theft, or to require that the offender make things right again.
In the situations described above, Trevor and Kevin were each given three hours of home chores to do before they could use their handheld devices again. Jadon’s dad paid off his older brothers for the money they lost and Jadon had to pay dad back by working around the house for a minimum hourly wage.
When a room search failed to turn up the missing jewelry, Harmony was given a pass. However, since valued items were disappearing from the homes, the children were briefly frisked before they left for school or play. Bookbags were scanned. This was done lightheartedly in all three homes, even with a smile. It became almost a game. The thefts were controlled.
Fix the problem, not the blame.read more