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.
I am a foster parent. I need an attorney. How do I go about finding the best one? The answer is as easy as 1-2-3.
First, ask yourself why you need an attorney. The four most common reasons for foster parents are: when you want to adopt; when allegations are being charged against you; when you have been waiting forever for a termination of parental rights to be filed; and when a child you have come to care for over time is being moved for what appears to be no good reason. In other words, you probably need to go to court.
Second, once your reasons are clear, ask your fellow foster parents who have faced a similar problem for their recommendations. If you don’t know anyone, post a query on Facebook with the Indiana Foster and Adoption Parents group (IFAAP). Be sure to get more than one recommendation so you will have a choice. A good attorney is important. Take your time.
Third, call them up. Get information from more than one attorney. Here are some questions you might wish to ask before you hire someone.
- How much do you charge? The DCS will offer any attorney up to $1500 as a non-recurring adoption expense (NRAE) to represent you. Some attorneys are willing to accept the $1500 as the full fee for a simple uncontested adoption.
- What experience do you have with adoption or allegations or whatever my problem is? Have you handled cases like mine before?
- What special subsidies are available for me as an adoptive parent? And what do I need to do to obtain them? The subsidies include continuing monthly payments, health insurance, a federal income tax credit, one-time adoption expenses, college scholarships, and a variety of local ones.
- And finally, how available will you be to me personally if I have questions during the process?
Don’t be shy. Having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney you can afford is very important. Ask away. Straightforward answers to these questions will allow you to compare the answers and make an informed choice.read more
The courtroom was crowded. More than thirty people were present. The new dad and mom, of course. Grandparents. Older brothers and sisters. Friends and neighbors. They were there to witness the formalization of a lifelong commitment. The crowd had come to celebrate the adoption of Jana, a five-year-old. She had been their foster daughter for more than a year.
Afterwards, the extended family planned to go home for a party. “It’s like a wedding,” grandpa told me. “We are all here to applaud the promise of a future lifetime together. For some of us, parenthood happens. In an adoption, the choice is more real. You sort of know what you are getting into. It’s like a wedding, where foster care is the dating period, the time you have to learn about each other.”
Marriage and adoption. The two ways lives are joined by love. We need to celebrate. While both are intended to last a lifetime, adoptions have the better track record. Fifty percent of US marriages end in divorce. Compare that to about two percent of all adoptions that fail. Adoption ends up more lasting than marriages today and has become the most permanent of all our legal relationships. Like conceived parenthood, the parent-child connection is a lifetime commitment.
Of course adoption should be celebrated. Not only in court but also with a party at home. Model it after a birthday party. If the child is older, invite his or her friends. Record the event with a video and with photos. Obtain comments, including silly ones, from those attending. As the years pass and your child grows older, remembering the day he or she joined your family will become a treasure for all to enjoy. Adoption is a forever promise.read more