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
My 18-year-old adopted son will be graduating from high school in the Spring. I want him to apply to college and receive an education. He wants to get a job. Help.
The fact that he is adopted should make no difference. You should respond the same way you would if he were your birth child. But before you do, here are a few things you might consider.
Prevention by reining in a teen’s time away from home late at night is a good parental strategy. It is important to know where your youngsters are, especially later at night. Especially for teens when the odds go up for car crashes, sex, and other life-changing events.
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.
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.
Peers are important, especially for teens. As Judith Harris in The Nurture Assumption makes clear, peers have a strong influence in socializing one another. And teens are fascinated by the novelty of someone different. Perhaps they are attracted by the apparent self-confidence of a braggart or a bully, or the delinquent behavior of an agemate who flaunts the law. Probation departments have rules that forbid delinquents from associating with other probationers. Worrying about your child’s companions is legitimate. Children copy the behavior of their friends.
Parents are concerned that their child will identify with and copy undesirable traits. Like probation departments, they try to monitor their child’s friends. Both probation departments and parents have had relatively small success.
What about “people who are not like us?” Friends that appear different, however, are not necessarily bad. Your child may see this person as a down-and-outer, someone who needs friendship and compassion. Or he may be drawn by the loyalty of someone from a different social class who was willing to stand up for him against a bully. Friends are valuable. High school friends can last a lifetime. A wise parent will try to find out what their child finds attractive in his or her friends before thoughtlessly dismissing them.
Listen to your teen. Observe him or her. Where does he show an interest? What are her passions? Assuming these are positive, encourage your teenager to participate in groups that share what he or she values. Is your teen interested in sports? Encourage him to join a neighborhood athletic club. Play on a team. Learn to swim. Attend his or her events. Sports teams share an ethic of hard work and team-building.
Other passions besides sports exist. Encourage an interest in working with others of his or her age to learn anything from computer skills to fashion design, from art to dog-training. Is she interested in church, in politics, in saving our environment? Support her working with like-minded peers. A common task is binding. Attachments grow as people do things together.read more
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 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
Get ready for school. Pick up your toys. Do your homework. Come to dinner. Foot-dragging can provoke long drawn-out attempts to get results by endless nagging. Parents become frustrated. Reminding and arguing and threatening are usually ineffective. Even worse, the attention that nagging provides can reinforce the very behavior that is driving the parent mad. The best discipline for slowpokes is for the parent to set deadlines. And then to enforce them, not with a lecture or punishment, but with practical consequences.
Foster dad tells Kaleb to empty the trash. “In a minute,” Kaleb responds, but the minute never comes. Dad tells him a second time and gets no action. Dad may have to rise up from his recliner, set his handheld device aside, and quietly take out the trash with his son. Kaleb learns that there is no third request. No extra attention. No lecture on the way to the garbage. This may need to happen several times. Assuming that Kaleb would prefer not to have his foster father’s help in carrying out the garbage, he is likely to become more responsive.
Foster mom has a difficult time getting 12-year-old Briley out of bed in the morning. Nagging goes nowhere. Briley is consistently late for breakfast and has missed the 8:00 o’clock school bus two days out of three. Mom finally decides to set some deadlines and let Briley face any consequences. She sets an alarm clock for 7:00 and gives Briley one subsequent personal get-up call. Briley is rewarded with a point if she arrives at the breakfast table by 7:30 and another point if she makes the bus. The points are worth small treats or privileges. If she fails to make the bus, mother will drive her to school in return for double time doing chores before she can go out or use her handheld devices.
Some foster parents are less aggravated by outright disobedience than by the unending effort required to get a child to move. Procrastination is difficult to deal with because it is the absence of any behavior. Don’t waste words. They are only likely to make matters worse. Instead, use a brief plan of small rewards and practical consequences within your control to get some action.read more