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

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.


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?”


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?”


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.


How to Become a Foster Parent in Indiana

December 11, 2018

While Indiana foster parents must be licensed by the Department of Child Services (DCS), the requirements match those of the average law-abiding citizen. The process sounds more complicated than it actually is.

First of all, let’s clear up some possible misconceptions. Foster parents in Indiana do not need to be married. They may be single. Or they may be living with a partner. A live-in relationship with a significant other or same-sex partner should be established for at least one year to demonstrate stability.

The first step is to contact your local county DCS office and indicate your interest. If you don’t know the number, check the state website at IN.gov or call their hotline at 888-631-9510.

After some initial paperwork, the county DCS will begin a home study. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, and pass a criminal history check that shows them to be free of felonies that involve violence and children. The background check includes a fingerprint-based national history search.

They must demonstrate financial stability. Verifying a bank balance and/or regular rent or payment of utilities should be sufficient.

They must provide a safe home and be able to offer reliable transportation. This means owning or renting a home or apartment that meets physical safety standards and has adequate bedroom space.

All family members must be in reasonably good health and free of disabling addictions. A statement from a physician for all household members is usually sufficient.

Some pre-service training sessions are required. This may include successful completion of First Aid, CPR, and Universal Precautions training.

At least three personal references are usually required. These may be in writing.

A Regional Licensing Specialist will make one or more home visits.

Then try it out. For those interested in making a more permanent commitment, foster care can be a first step toward adoption.

read more

Foster Care Payments Are Not Taxable Income

November 27, 2018

On December 15, 2017, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) described an adjustment to payments for foster parents. They sent them the following brief message: “We are writing to inform you of the foster care per diem rates for this upcoming year. There is a slight adjustment based upon the increase in the consumer price index. The new rates are as follows:

Age 0-4$20.53
Age 5-13$22.29
Age 14-18$25.72

The letter noted an additional daily increase of about $8.00 per day for “care with services,” and more substantial increases for those foster parents who have been approved for "therapeutic care."

Foster care payments are reimbursement for the daily costs of raising a child, and are not considered taxable income by the IRS. The payments need not be included on the foster parents’ tax return if the care was provided to a qualified foster child and the money was paid by a state or qualified agency.

Having a foster child in the home does not change the family’s status for receiving food stamps.

The foster child cannot receive benefits as a separate SNAP household. However, any other income received for the child, such as child support, still does not count as income to the foster family household.

(Obviously, these payments are for foster care. For payments after the adoption of a foster child, please refer to my blog post on subsidies.)

read more

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.	
read more

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.

The children come with a troubled and troubling history. They begin as “temporary,” possibly in transit. You and they may both need to feel each other out, as if you are on probation. Meanwhile, they are wards of the DCS. The Department of Child Services maintains control and you are subject to their policies: Physical punishment is not allowed. You may only leave them with other licensed foster parents. And more rules.

As experienced foster parents, you can be an asset to the newcomers. What better way to continue and expand your own continuing commitment and love for children without a permanent home!

Perhaps you already know of someone. If not, ask the case manager or find out names of the beginners at your next foster parent training. Don’t wait to be assigned. Approach a first-timer and offer your support. Many possibilities exist.

Mentoring. They may call and ask how to handle certain unique behavioral problems. Or what to do when a child they have come to love is about to be transferred. How to relate to their DCS worker. What to do about false allegations.

They may have questions about the possibility of adoption. What all is involved? And more importantly, how to think the matter though. Adoption is a lifetime commitment. You may have already done that and can share your own experience. They may ask your advice on how to find a good attorney, one who is knowledgeable about adoptions from foster care and is effective.

They may need moral support when they get discouraged. Someone with whom to share difficult moments. To be reminded of why they became a foster parent in the first place.

Sometimes, you can help with practical logistics. Babysitting can provide a break. If you are still foster parents yourselves, you can fill in for one another. Both of you will gain from the backup. If you have already “retired,” this might be a good reason to maintain your license. You can become a “foster grandparent.”

Each foster child is a unique challenge. Each child needs a special type of reassurance. That is true of foster parents too. It’s a tough but rewarding job. And foster-to-adopt parents can enlarge their experiences by sharing it with others. All of those involved benefit.

read more

 

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