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.

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I have dozens of articles, so please select the category you find most interesting.

Adoption

How to successfully navigate the complicated adoption process


Foster Children

What you can do to best help your foster child


Parenting Tips and Advice

Ideas from an attorney and a psychologist on how to raise foster and adopted children


Inspiration

The joys and the challenges of adoption and foster care in story and poetry


Legal Matters

What a lawyer can do to for you, how to prepare for court, and other legal issues



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Complete List of Articles

Adoption Is Forever March 24, 2020 The courtroom was crowded. More than thirty people were present. The new dad and mom, of course. Grandparents. Older brothers and sisters. Friends and neighbors. They were there to witness the formalization of a lifelong commitment. The crowd had come to celebrate the adoption of Jana, a five-year-old. She had been their foster daughter for more than a year.
Negotiating for Adoption Subsidies March 10, 2020 All post-adoption subsidies in Indiana are referred for negotiation. In Marion County, your case will be assigned to one of four attorneys who will probably begin by offering a minimal amount of support or nothing. How much you eventually are awarded will depend on the knowledge and skill of your personal adoption attorney. Details of the negotiating process are contained within Chapter Ten of the DCS Manual.
Preparing for Adoption Court February 25, 2020 Know your judge. Adoption court hearings differ widely. Most are uncontested and informal. In those cases, you can anticipate a positive experience, brief and happy for you and your new child.
Getting Through to Your Child February 11, 2020 The biggest mistake we make in our effort to control the behavior of our children is our tendency to blame them. We wrap our verbal discipline inside a message that sounds like good parenting. It may sound good to us but it often fails because our child responds by shutting us out or automatically defending himself or herself.
Important People Who Can Help January 28, 2020 Foster parents, especially those who hope or plan to adopt, need to know and cultivate the major players. Rather than waiting around for their wishes to come true, they can quietly do a lot to enhance their chances. Here are some important contacts.
The Rights of the Child Come First January 14, 2020 Laws are provided to protect those most in need. The powerful can take care of themselves. Civil rights legislation offers a voice to women, ethnic minorities, persons of a different gender persuasion, those who are injured, and even to so-called illegal immigrants. An immature child with an unsafe or no home clearly heads this list. As our potentially most vulnerable citizen, the child whose basic need for safe and sane surroundings is seriously in jeopardy has an overriding right to our protection. The child’s rights become primary. 
Celebrating Family December 31, 2019 During a recent visit to our local hospital in Indianapolis, I noticed a brief and intermittent melody played over the hospital-wide sound system. I had to ask a nurse what that meant. She replied with a smile: “Oh, they play that every time we have a baby born here.”
On Giving December 17, 2019

This poem by Kahlil Gibran in “The Prophet” suggests much about the motivation of foster and adoptive parents.


About Lying December 3, 2019 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?”
Family First November 19, 2019 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 to 12 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.”
Finding That First Job November 5, 2019 My foster son wants to work. What kind of job should he get for starters and how can I help him?
On Stealing October 22, 2019 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.
Making a Difference, a new book on foster care and adoption October 8, 2019

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.


Inspirational Moments for Foster and Adoptive Parents September 10, 2019

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.


Four Good Reads for Children at Bedtime August 27, 2019

Several parents have asked for suggestions about children’s books that especially relate to foster and adopted children. Here are my favorites.


Keep Smiling August 13, 2019

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 July 30, 2019

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.


Who Gives of Himself (Herself) July 16, 2019

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.


On Adopting a Foster Child July 2, 2019

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.


Vacations with Foster Kids June 18, 2019

Where to go and what to do in Indiana for foster families.


Time Out for Foster Parents June 4, 2019

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.


Grandma Made a Promise April 9, 2019

When this single grandmother adopted her two young grandchildren, that was occasion to celebrate-- special enough to write a poem.


Don't Make Kids Wait March 26, 2019

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?


Quotes about Adoption March 12, 2019

I hope these quotes about adoption inspire you like they have inspired me.


Extending Adoption Subsidies in Indiana February 26, 2019

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.


On True Love for Foster and Adoptive Friends February 12, 2019

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.


Every Child Has the Right to a Permanent Home January 29, 2019

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 Federal Income Tax Credit for Adoption January 15, 2019

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...


Why Adopt? Inspiring Ideas from Past Clients January 1, 2019

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.


Dealing with Children's Cellphone Use December 18, 2018

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.


How to Become a Foster Parent in Indiana December 11, 2018

An overview of how to become a foster parent in Indiana. The process appears more complicated than it actually is.


Foster Care Payments Are Not Taxable Income November 27, 2018

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.


Adoption: Two Views October 23, 2018

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.	

Helping New Foster Parents October 9, 2018

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.


Dealing with Bad Language September 25, 2018

A friend of mine complained that his eleven- and thirteen-year-old foster sons frequently spiced their talk with crude sexual and violent words.


Leaving Home with Empty Hands September 11, 2018

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.


Family Helpers August 28, 2018

Five-year-olds and up are capable of learning and performing several household chores.


The Non-responsive Child August 14, 2018

"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?"


The Exception Proves the Rule July 31, 2018

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.


The Termination of Parental Rights July 17, 2018

“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?”


Handling the Non-stop Child July 17, 2018

“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?”


Preparing a Life Book July 3, 2018

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.”


All About the Child June 19, 2018

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.


Foster Parenting Isn't Easy June 5, 2018

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.


A Grandmother's Story May 22, 2018

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.”


Ten Good Reasons to Adopt a Teen May 8, 2018

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


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.”


On Being an Adoptive Dad April 10, 2018

My father, Dr. Jim Kenny, wrote the following article on how he felt about being the adoptive father of my brother and three sisters.


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.


My New Foster Son March 13, 2018

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.


A Voice for Foster Parents February 27, 2018

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.


A Foster-to-Adopt Story for Children February 13, 2018

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.


Why Bonding Matters January 30, 2018

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.


When a Cooperative Adoption Makes Sense January 16, 2018

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 Tale with Two Endings January 2, 2018

A Middle School teacher began the following story and asked his students to make up an ending: One child’s story finished very differently.


When Kids Fight December 19, 2017

 “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!” 


How to Keep a Journal on Your Foster Child December 5, 2017

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.


The Best Training for Foster Parents November 21, 2017

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.


Dealing with Allegations of Abuse for Foster Parents November 7, 2017 Foster parents are especially vulnerable to charges of child abuse and neglect. Charges may be leveled by the foster child, the birth parent, the caseworker, a neighbor, or a stranger. The reasons are many and the allegations may be exaggerated or patently false, often motivated by resentment. No matter the source or the merit of the charges or how absurd they appear, they must be taken seriously right from the start. Don’t wait.
Foster Children Discipline Tips for Foster Parents October 24, 2017

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.


Indiana Adoption Subsidies for Foster Parents October 10, 2017

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 Thoughts on Adoption September 26, 2017

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?’”


A Moving Poem on Adoption September 12, 2017

I want to share Carol Lynn Pearson’s moving poem on adoption.


Should I Adopt? August 29, 2017

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.


When Do You Need a Lawyer? August 15, 2017

Here are a few thoughts about when and why foster parents might benefit from legal help.


Motivation for Foster Parents August 1, 2017

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.


Welcome to the Kenny Law Blog July 18, 2017

The Kenny Law Blog will offer a brief twice-monthly comment on issues of interest to foster parents, especially those who are considering adoption.


Adoption Is Forever

March 24, 2020

The courtroom was crowded.  More than thirty people were present.  The new dad and mom, of course.  Grandparents.  Older brothers and sisters.  Friends and neighbors.  They were there to witness the formalization of a lifelong commitment.  The crowd had come to celebrate the adoption of Jana, a five-year-old.  She had been their foster daughter for more than a year.

Afterwards, the extended family planned to go home for a party.  “It’s like a wedding,” grandpa told me.  “We are all here to applaud the promise of a future lifetime together.  For some of us, parenthood happens.  In an adoption, the choice is more real. You sort of know what you are getting into.  It’s like a wedding, where foster care is the dating period, the time you have to learn about each other.”

Marriage and adoption.  The two ways lives are joined by love.  We need to celebrate.  While both are intended to last a lifetime, adoptions have the better track record.  Fifty percent of US marriages end in divorce.  Compare that to about two percent of all adoptions that fail.  Adoption ends up more lasting than marriages today and has become the most permanent of all our legal relationships.  Like conceived parenthood, the parent-child connection is a lifetime commitment.

Of course adoption should be celebrated.  Not only in court but also with a party at home.  Model it after a birthday party.  If the child is older, invite his or her friends. Record the event with a video and with photos. Obtain comments, including silly ones, from those attending. As the years pass and your child grows older, remembering the day he or she joined your family will become a treasure for all to enjoy. Adoption is a forever promise.

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Negotiating for Adoption Subsidies

March 10, 2020

All post-adoption subsidies in Indiana are referred for negotiation.  In Marion County, your case will be assigned to one of four attorneys who will probably begin by offering a minimal amount of support or nothing. How much you eventually are awarded will depend on the knowledge and skill of your personal adoption attorney.   Details of the negotiating process are contained within Chapter Ten of the DCS Manual.

Before you begin negotiating, document in writing your family income, living expenses, indebtedness, and anything else you anticipate spending.  Your monthly payment will be based upon financial need.  So be prepared.  You must show the DCS written proof that you need continuing support until your child reaches age 18.

The agreement reached will be final, with no opportunity for revisiting.  That is why it is so important to do your research ahead of time.  Be sure to sign the agreement, even if your award is zero.  A signed agreement is important for continuing health care, attorney fees, and other related expenses

Your final monthly award may range all the way from zero to a high at the full amount of your most recent monthly per diem.  In certain cases where you have adopted a child with special needs, you can have the adoption subsidy extended until age 21.  Again you must document your need as your award will continue to be based upon financial need.

One final bit of advice.  The monthly payments you will receive for your adopted child will be established in the negotiating process.  Your new child deserves whatever additional support you can obtain.  With your attorney, work for the best.

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Preparing for Adoption Court

February 25, 2020

Know your judge.  Adoption court hearings differ widely.  Most are uncontested and informal.  In those cases, you can anticipate a positive experience, brief and happy for you and your new child.

If, however, the adoption is contested, you must be prepared to argue your desire. Select your attorney with care.  Use the wise counsel of other adoptive parents who have been pleased with their legal representation. Your attorney will be important, not only in court, but in negotiating the best adoption subsidy possible with the DCS.

Know the law. You and your attorney should have copies of any relevant DCS policies and laws relevant to your arguments to quote and show the judge.

Speak up in court.  Be brief but don’t be shy.  And stay positive.  State clearly why you believe that the child will prosper in your home.  Avoid complaining or badmouthing the opposing party.

What you have to say and how you present your family to the judge will be very important.  Write your remarks out in advance.  Practice giving your arguments with a friend before appearing in court.

In a disputed adoption, it may be wise to bring friends and neighbors with you as witnesses who can attests to your good parenting.  If you have had the child in your care for six months or more, a Bonding Evaluation can be quite helpful.

“Bonding is a significant reciprocal attachment which both parties want and expect to continue and which is interrupted or terminated at peril to the parties involved.”  Humans bond by sharing important life events such as eating, sleeping, and playing together over time. Research provides four objective and strong criteria that are all reflected in federal law and Indiana DCS policies.  They are: Time spent together; the Behavior of the Child; Reciprocal Attachment; and Family Identification. They can all be documented in a thorough Bonding Evaluation.

Good luck in court!

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Getting Through to Your Child

February 11, 2020

The biggest mistake we make in our effort to control the behavior of our children is our tendency to blame them.  We wrap our verbal discipline inside a message that sounds like good parenting. It may sound good to us but it often fails because our child responds by shutting us out or automatically defending himself or herself.

“Do your homework!”  “Don’t talk back to me like that.”  “You’re late again” These three attempts to communicate and control all have the same basic problem.  They fly in the fact of our child’s basic instinct to defend himself or herself.  We may be correct logically but our child perceives our statement as an attack.  That may invite a spoken or quiet negative response in return. 

What we say and what our child hears are often different messages.  To communicate and get a better response, we need to understand the mind of our child. No matter how good our parental direction may sound to us, we fail if the message does not get through. Perception is our child’s reality.

We fail primarily because the above messages begin with the second person pronoun.  They start with an implied “You.”  That causes our child’s self-protective wall to go up. Beginning a verbal attempt to correct our child with “you” is always judgmental.  The message is about what is wrong with your child. So we shouldn't be surprised when our child ignores us, tries to defend himself, or even attacks back.  After all, he knows better than we do what is going on in his life, how he feels, and why he does what he does. 

To be more effective, try using “I” messages. Send the same basic direction but from your own point of concern.   Tell the child your own thoughts or feelings.  For example, you might say “I need your homework done now.”  Or “I feel angry when you talk to me like that.”  “I worry when you are not home by nine.” This may take some courage as the “I” message leaves you wide open to a personal smart-aleck response telling you to quit worrying. Don’t take the bait.  Instead, respond with a smile and tell them: “I’m your dad (or mom).  It’s my house and I get to set the rules.”

Obviously, good discipline involves more than I-messaging.  For example, parents need to set a time for homework, have rules for appropriate speech, and set curfews ahead of time. And there need to be simple non-punitive consequences for failure to comply. However, “I” messages offer a better chance at success, because they offer personal information about the sender rather than blaming the receiver.

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