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.
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
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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.
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. Pick the topic you need and inform yourself.
The authors are a father and son. The son is an attorney who for twenty-three years has focused his practice on adoptions, particularly from foster care. The father is a clinical psychologist, now retired from a career as a behavioral therapist.
The book is divided into five sections. “To Love a Child” contains several motivational pieces. “Navigating the System” covers practical matters like when you need an attorney, foster care payments, dealing with allegations, and much more. Day-to-day problems faced in “Foster Parenting” are dealt with in the third section. “Changing Problem Behavior” then discusses how to handle difficult issues like the discipline of teens, hyperactivity, lying, stealing, cell phones, and much more.
Part Five on “Adoption” considers the practical side of permanence. From finding a voice in court to the termination of parental rights, from negotiating adoption subsidies to the income tax credit, from the importance of bonding in disputed adoptions to cooperative adoptions, and much in between.
With his psychologist father, Peter has previously authored What Foster Parents Need to Know and Attachment and Bonding in the Foster and Adopted Child. All three of his books are available on Amazon.com.read more
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.
A year ago my now-married adopted daughter texted us to inquire about the date of her adoption. She explained that she wanted to celebrate that as her re-birthday. She had been our child since she was fourteen months old. That surprised us and meant a lot.
We were eating dinner. Our teenage foster son speared a veggie, put it in his mouth, chewed it, and remarked with a grin: ‘That was a delectable morsel.’ Everyone at the table burst out laughing.
We adopted our youngest son as a baby. Years later, we overheard a friend ask him what he thought about being adopted. He replied simply: ‘I won the lottery.'
Scot was an active teen with a potty mouth and a penchant for getting in trouble. I constantly had to go to school conferences to answer for his behavior. Then one night, he awakened me in a panic. ‘Dad,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to find Jamie. He’s run away. The last thing he said to me was that he was going to kill himself rather than be moved to another foster home.’ Jamie had learned earlier that day that he was being transferred from our home to a therapeutic foster home. So up I got, and I spent the rest of the night following Scot as we knocked on doors in subsidized housing where Jamie might have gone. We finally found him. He was still moved but returned to live with us after being emancipated. I learned something very important that night. There is a lot of good in youngsters like Scot.…He is a foster parent today.read more
Several parents have asked for suggestions about children’s books that especially relate to foster and adopted children. Here are four of my favorites.
LOVE YOU FOREVER (Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw)
The story begins with a young mother looking lovingly at her newborn son. Softlly she sings to him.
"I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be."
My niece was adopted from foster care at age five. She asks for this story to be read to her over and over.
ARE YOU MY MOTHER? (P. D. Eastman)
When a mother bird’s egg starts to jump, she hurries off to make sure she has something for her little one to eat. But as soon as she’s gone, out pops the baby bird. Where is my mother? He immediately sets off to find her. Not knowing what she looks like makes it a challenge. The little hatchling is determined to find his mother, after first quiaaing a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a Snort.
MY BOOK ABOUT ME (Dr. Seuss)
My parents bought copies of this book for their adopted grandchildren. A wonderful interactive exercise that helps foster and adopted children solidify their tenuous identities. And great fun as they write and draw their own biographies. With a mix of serious and seriously silly "Yes" and "No" questions, fill-in-the-blanks, images to complete, and simple writing activities, My Book About Me, By ME, Myself offers an opportunity for continuous revisiting and happy updating.
LITTLE LOST MONKEY (Jim Kenny and Carla Mann)
A small monkey’s father goes off fishing and disappears. Shortly after, his mother is captured and taken away. Chipper awakens one morning to an empty nest in the tree, beginning an exciting journey as he wanders the jungle in search of a home. The various emotions that are experienced by a child in temporary care are represented in his encounters along the way. He escapes from a snake, a tiger, and a crocodile before being helped by a wise owl. Our small hero is temporarily mothered by a lioness before being taken to a village of chimpanzees where he finds acceptance and love.
The above four books all strongly emphasize the themes of loving commitment and permanence. Good bedtime stories. All four are available on Amazon.com.read more
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 moral? Foster kids are different. Learn to appreciate their ingenuity.
"Finding some dried leafy material in the room of our two middle school foster sons, I took it to the police for testing. They reported that it was not a controlled substance. Later, we learned that they had been drying out our used tea bags and ‘appropriating’ our herbs and spices. Bagging them, they were labeling them as marijuana and selling them at school. Our friendly policeman laughed. ‘You can’t get them for dealing drugs, but I think you have a legitimate charge of ‘truth-in-advertising.’ We had a good laugh."
And again. "My best opening line was a welcome from a skinny 15-year-old foster son. Derek had arrived at around 4:30 and I first encountered him when I got home at 6:00. ‘Hey, butthead,’ he greeted me. ‘You’d better get upstairs and straighten out old gray hair (my wife.) She’s already on my case.’ I laughed, punched him lightly on the shoulder and replied: ‘Shut up, ya little shrimp.’ We got along well after that beginning. I had learned earlier not to let myself be provoked."
And last: "Sammy was a mentally delayed seven-year-old. One morning he ran into our bedroom to announce in great wonder: ‘Daddy, the sun came up.’ When I didn’t act that excited, he added: ‘It came up yesterday too.’ I thought to myself that he was a lovely child, though somewhat simple. Later on, as I was my way to work, the sun flashed at me through the windshield. Nature’s glorious miracle! I had taken the daily sunrise for granted. Until today. Who was the one truly delayed? I smiled. Thank you, Sammy."read more