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.

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

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.


Vacations with Foster Kids

June 18, 2019

Everyone needs to get away from difficult or boring routines. As foster parents, struggling with damaged children and with little money to waste, you need a break more than most. A getaway also provides you with the opportunity to bond with your child through new adventuring. Here are a few ideas on where you might go in Indiana and what to do. (To leave the state, you need permission from your caseworker and the judge.)

First, a getaway can be as brief as a one-day trip or extended to two weeks or more. Our favorite in central Indiana is the Children’s Museum which has loads of child-centered exhibits plus a huge outdoor sports complex. Licensed Indiana foster parents currently caring for a foster child are eligible for a free full one-year membership. This also applies to any other children under 21 living in the same household. Plan a full day to explore.

We live along the canal in downtown Indianapolis. Walking a three-mile trail along our canal, we can feed the ducks and geese, check out well-kept plants and flowers, and have an over-choice of places to visit. We pass several museums, including the Eiteljorg (native American), the Indiana State museum, Indiana Historical Society, and the NCAA headquarters. At the south end is the home ballpark of the Indianapolis Indians, a fun place to watch a top minor league team. And the Indianapolis Zoo. And much more.

To the south, Holiday World a combination theme and water park, is located in Santa Claus, Indiana. In the Hammond/Gary area, check out “Kid-friendly activities in northern Indiana” on the internet.

Our favorite vacation was camping. I think we explored every state park in Indiana. Many have lodges but we preferred to camp in tents or in our converted school bus. We had a campers’ kitchen stocked and ready to go for a week or a weekend. Our favorite repeats were Lincoln State Park, Turkey Run, and McCormick’s Creek.

For those preferring more indoor fun, hotels throughout Indiana are looking for business. You can usually find a brief or longer slot for an affordable cost on www.priceline.com or similar websites.

Select your time and the place you want to go. And search on line for a deal.

Get away with your kids, even for a brief adventure. Limit use of cell phones to an hour per day. Provide the setting and use your children’s imagination to wander and explore.

read more

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.

That same principle applies to foster parents. Everyone needs a break, especially foster and adoptive parents, who are on duty 24/7. Pace yourself, or there will be nothing left to provide the special parenting that your kids require. Anticipate, and build in normal escapes, the way ordinary parents do.

Unless you are either a saint or a masochist, you and your spouse need to get away for an evening once every week or two. Go out to dinner together. Visit with friends. Take in a show. Go to a ball game.

As long as you are available and willing to meet any of your foster child’s needs, that should be sufficient for a short time away. “Indiana DCS does not consider field trips and sleepovers to be respite care when the resource parent(s) maintains care and control for the child while the child is absent from the resource home i.e., the resource parent(s) is available and willing to meet any of the child’s needs which may arise.” (DCS Child Welfare Policy Manual 8:17)

Respite care refers to longer periods of time away, four to fourteen days. With your adoptive children, that presents no problem. For foster children, however, DCS policy says you need to leave them in care of a safe person. A “safe” person is defined as someone who has passed a criminal background check. That’s not hard to arrange but it may take some anticipation.

Extended family members are an obvious choice. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings are ideal. Call your agency or your DCS case manager and arrange a once-and-for-all background check for any potential temporary caregivers. In fact, this may be a wise thing to do when you first get your foster parent license.

Another possibility: If you know other foster parents nearby, work out an exchange. Trade off child care. You can make the exchange a short vacation for your child. If you don’t know anyone, call your case manager and find foster parents in your neighborhood who may be interested.

You are not alone. Use your family and friends regularly to catch your breath and when needed. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.

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Grandma Made a Promise

April 9, 2019

When this single grandmother adopted her two young grandchildren, that was occasion to celebrate. The actual moment with Joey and Candy is captured in the picture below, an occasional special enough to write a poem.

Thumbnail

Today Grandma made a promise in court
That I would always be her son
The judge asked me
If I wanted her to be my mother
“What about Candy?” I asked
“I have some M&M’s” he said
”No, Candy is my sister” I told him
He said “Okay, you can keep her.”
So I said YES real loud
And shouted HALLEJUJAH
I jumped off a chair and did somersaults
Up in heaven God turned the key
To lock us all together
And He smiled

Today my Grandma made a promise in court
That I could always be her girl
Mr. Judge looked at me and asked if I agreed
“Will Joey still be my big brother?” I asked
“Of course” he said
Then YES I said
“You got a brother and a mother” he said
Two for one promise
Everyone laughed and I was so happy
I felt like I was a princess
Up in heaven the angels threw a party

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Don't Make Kids Wait

March 26, 2019

Waiting is painful, even torturous for adults. Ignorant of the outcome, one is likely to imagine every possibility, and especially the worst.

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?

Pretend you are working as a temp, hoping to get a full-time job so you can have access to benefits and support your family. The months slip by. You are doing a good job but are afraid even to inquire whether they plan to hire you. Nothing is happening. You are worried but try not to let it show.

Imagine that you are camping deep in the woods and the ranger comes to tell you they have an emergency phone call. He does not know what it is about, only that you need to come at once. The ranger station is 45 minutes away. What is going through your mind as you are driving to take the call?

Waiting is much worse for a child living in a home with no permanent commitment. Adults have other life experiences, memories of times when patience was rewarded with good results. Adults learn to hang in there on the big issues and "not to sweat the small stuff."

Being parked in a foster home for an indefinite period is different. Waiting can cause serious psychological damage. My psychologist father and I have identified five emotional stages that these very vulnerable youngsters pass through.

At first the child has Hope. "Maybe this family will be the one. If only…" But in time, hope fades, and Fear sets in. "What if it will always be like this? What if no one really wants me? What if I never have a home? What if…"

After fear comes Anger. The child gets mad and often expresses his feelings by acting out. Temper tantrums. Foot-dragging. Stealing. Destroying property. Failing "deliberately" in school to frustrate the foster parents.

The anger may fade into a prolonged quiet Sadness. In time, this depression is often replaced by a coldness, a lack of caring. Indifference may be the final stage. "So what! What’s the use? Who cares? I don’t."

Delay is destructive. The delay is not simply about some isolated anticipated event. The delay for the foster child, and the way the child perceives the delay, concerns his whole life.

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