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

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.


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.


On True Love for Foster and Adoptive Friends

February 12, 2019

Dear foster and adoptive clients and friends:

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.

True love does not just happen. Involved is much more than providing room and board, nursing bruises, and helping with homework. More even than suffering their ingratitude and occasional defiance without striking back. Love involves seeing them as they are, letting go of yourself, and falling in love.

Love involves hanging tough and committed through hard times. True love is incomplete without the cost. No one describes this complex dance more beautifully than Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet.

….When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you, yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you, believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

….Love has no other desires but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.

But most of you are not poets. You are action people. And in your love, you go a step beyond my poet. Despite the cost, many of you make your connection to the child permanent. With a promise that is more honored today than marriage, you file to adopt.

read more

Every Child Has the Right to a Permanent Home

January 29, 2019

Children are immature. While in the process of growing and developing, they are being shaped by their experiences. However "safe" foster care may appear, it is temporary and engenders a sense of not truly belonging.

Research has clearly shown that delay in achieving permanence is not in the child’s best interest. As time drags on, the possibilities of bad outcomes multiply. The child learns not to attach or bond. The likelihood that he or she will become a criminal, homeless, or mentally ill increases significantly.

If the child must be removed from the birth home, the preferred initial resolution is reunification. For the child’s sake, the DCS must press diligently to reunite the original family within the outside limits allowed by federal and state laws. The deadlines are clearly stated: 6 to 12 months or 15 of the past 22 months. The best way to avoid delay is to provide the birth parents with a reunification plan within 24 hours of removal and monitor progress weekly.

Time is the enemy of a growing and developing child. As months go by without reunification, an alternate permanency plan must be considered. Legal guardianship and long-term foster care are obviously not true permanency plans. Adoption and reunification remain the only two lifetime options.

Every child has the right to a permanent home. Because the child is the more vulnerable party, this right should not be delayed while birth parents are allowed opportunity after opportunity over long periods of time to correct their own unacceptable behaviors.

To grow up sane and whole, all children need a home base, with committed adults they can count on to affirm their accomplishments, to show them positive discipline, and to love them for who they are. Even later in life, home may become a place of refuge "where when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

Indiana foster children spend an average of almost two years in foster care. That is both unnecessary and unacceptable. As former Indiana DCS Director James Payne once commented: "When you’re in third grade, it’s a long time till lunch."

read more

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. The child must be under 18 at the time of adoption (or unable to take care of him or herself) and other than a stepchild.

Most Indiana foster-to-adopt parents receive a post-adoption subsidy paid by the state. If that is the case, under the federal tax code, your child is considered to have “special needs.” This means that you are not required to document your expenses to claim the credit. You can claim it even if you had no expenses. However, you must owe taxes in order to receive a credit.

The maximum amount has increased to $13,810 per child in 2018. Currently, the credit is non-refundable. This means that you must claim the credit up to the maximum amount allowed for the year you adopt. If your tax obligation is less than the credit allows, you may continue to claim the difference as a credit over the next five years.

All other eligible adoptions, including foster children who do not receive post-adoption assistance benefits, are not considered “special needs” for purposes of the adoption tax credit. In those cases, parents are required to document qualified legitimate expenses.

How much you will benefit from the credit depends on the amount of federal income tax you owe the US government. Data shows that families with continuous adjusted gross incomes of less than $30,000 are not likely to benefit from the adoption tax credit because they do not owe any federal taxes. For those with higher incomes, the credit phases out. In 2018, those with adjusted gross incomes above $247,140 could not claim any credit. To claim the adoption credit, complete Form 8839 (Qualified Adoption Expenses), and attach the form to your Form 1040 (U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.) Since for certain years in the past, the tax credit was refundable, claims can be filed for the tax credit for adoptions finalized dating back to 2012.

Consult with your tax preparer for more details on the adoption federal income tax credit. Since the tax credit was refundable at times in the past, he or she may help you recover some monies. If you do your own taxes, check with the IRS code on the adoption tax credit or go to https://www.nacac.org.

read more

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. I would welcome receiving any similar thought from other adoptive parents.

  • "Adoption is like a marriage, only more permanent. Foster care was our engagement period. We fell in love with our foster child and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Now we’re waiting for the court ceremony that makes it official."
  • "We found we weren’t able to have children the usual way. But we wanted a family, a chance to pass on our hopes and dreams. I think raising a child, helping him or her to grow up, is even more real and important than merely passing on my genes."
  • "I want to adopt the child that no one else wants or is willing to spend time with. Perhaps a teenager or a child with disabilities. Someone very vulnerable that would really need a parent."
  • "A friend of ours said kids were a nuisance. They would interfere with what he wants out of life. My husband and I feel the opposite. Children are our joy. They make each day worthwhile.”"
  • "Love and commitment go together."
  • "Adoption made us more than just foster parents. Adopting is more than an impulsive action that can be rethought when things don’t seem to be working out. Adoption is for life and we are glad, glad."
  • "We have a family of both birth and adopted children. Sometimes a thoughtless person will ask us which ones are ‘really’ ours. I was baffled for a moment. Of course they are ALL really ours. Perhaps our adoptive children even more, because they were a free choice. Or do we ‘own’ any of our children? Ownership is a different notion than loving and feeling privileged to be very important in their lives."
  • "For us, adoption started with an idea. Let’s take in a foster child. We got to like the little rascal, although sometimes she gave us fits. My husband and I woke up one morning and found that we were in love with her. Our lives had meaning. There was an important reason for us to be together. Our marriage had a new purpose. Last week the judge made it final. We have a new five-year-old daughter."
  • "Because that’s who we are."
read more

 

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