Children with autism are more likely to end up in the foster care system. Long- and short-term outcomes for children in foster care are not good: Children who spend any amount of time in foster homes are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and more likely to end up homeless, in the criminal justice system or in long-term residential care. Foster care may be an even less desirable place for children with autism, given their special needs. Although foster parents may receive some specialized training, it is generally not nearly enough to help them adequately care for these children.
7.3 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children with autism were in foster care in a 2008 study. This is well above twice the proportion of all Medicaid-enrolled children in foster care. The prevalence of children with autism in foster care started out at 7.5 percent in 2001. It climbed to 10.5 percent in 2005 and then declined to 9.1 percent in 2007. Children with autism were 2.4 times more likely to enter foster care than a typical child.
Raising a child with autism is stressful for families, as the condition is unusually difficult to manage effectively. Some parents may simply not have the skills and resources to do so. This may result in neglect or abuse — and placement in foster care. Alternatively, families may voluntarily place children with autism in foster care because they can’t handle the children’s behavioral problems. Third, parents may relinquish custody so that their children can obtain Medicaid-funded or residential care that they otherwise cannot afford.
I will always be for family preservation. To lower the chances that a child with autism will land in foster care, clinicians working with these families should talk openly about the stresses of raising a child on the spectrum. They should ask how that stress is manifesting in the family, and assist the family members in getting the support they need. All US states should offer home visits from professionals or short-term breaks for parents of children with autism. (Only a handful currently do.) Home visits and respite services have been shown to lower the chances of psychiatric hospitalization among children with autism, and also may reduce the risk of foster care placement.
Foster care arrangements can cost between $30,000 and $50,000 in taxpayer funds per child per year. That money could be more wisely spent supporting the needs of these families. Society has an ethical obligation to help families care for their children with autism. We can and must do better to help these most vulnerable children and their families.
Thanks to David Mandell and his essay in LINK> Spectrum News for today’s blog. I started with an interest in how neurodivergent issues relate to foster care and a google search ended up with that essay.
Today’s question – A woman adopted 2 kids years ago and has raised them since they were very young. Now that they are older, some truth came out that the situation that caused the adoption wasn’t as bad as she had been led to believe.
1) She wants to know if there is a way for their birth certificates to revert back the originals? She thought she had to change them in order to adopt the kids. (This is a common misperception that adoptees are trying to change because it almost always matters to them.)
2) Can she help their birth mother regain custody so that she can finish raising her own children ? Or un-adopt them, is that even possible?
A complication is that the kids say they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother or even to meet her. The woman is not certain they are telling the truth. Maybe they don’t want to hurt her feelings?
Some responses –
1) She probably did need to change the birth certificate to adopt, that’s still the case in many jurisdictions. It’s why guardianship is often preferred, though what that means also varies from one jurisdiction to the next, sometimes it is viewed as not allowing for stability.
2) The first step is for the kids need to get to know their mother again. If they refuse, I’m not sure what she can do other than to gently encourage it and never speak poorly of their mother. If they get to that point, what comes next varies widely from one jurisdiction to the next.
The mother may be able to re-adopt her children. However, if the allegation was neglect or abuse determined by Child Protective Services, that may not be possible. Same with guardianship. She might be able to take guardianship of her children, or not, depending on the situation.
These options may fail. It may be possible for the adoptive mother to give the original mother a power of attorney, should the children move in with her, and/or unofficially she could share custody of them, just like some separated/divorced parents do.
The woman definitely needs to consult a lawyer, so that she can determine if the court might view her as a possible risk. This assumes that Child Protective Services removed the children from her care. If her Termination of Parental Rights was a private relinquishment (that would make all of the above FAR easier.)
Another possibility is an adult adoption, which could restore the information that was originally on their birth certificates (by again changing the documents to finalize an adoption). If these children are already teenagers, that makes this option easier, as long as they are in agreement.
And this is the most important point, from an adoptee – It’s very possible that they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother, if she hasn’t been in their lives. Listen to what they are saying. I would never have wanted to leave my adoptive family to go and live with my biological family. It would have felt like a complete rejection of the life I had lived. I wouldn’t want another name. I am the name I have been for a long time, not baby girl “x”. These kids need to be the ones leading. Everyone else needs to just sit back and listen.
Therapy. Individually. Let them heal their own traumas. Create a space that’s safe and secure enough that they know they can speak honestly about how they feel about their biological family.
Another adoptee admits that she wanted so badly to have a relationship with her biological family. “It was freaking awful. The worst.” It’s not always what the adoptee thinks it would be like, either way.
The most important thing is their healing and security. The rest will come, if that is the right direction. They don’t deserve to have the process of reintroduction rushed, if they say “no” for any reason. It should be their lead.
I can’t vouch for this method – Trust-Based Relational Intervention – I’m only just learning about it. TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI uses Connecting Principles for attachment needs, Empowering Principles to address physical needs and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors.
A question I saw that I could easily have is whether TBRI is somehow religion based. The answer I saw said – TBRI is NOT a faith based approach but one that is solidly grounded in neuroscience and brain based research. It is an evidence-based, trauma-informed model of care for vulnerable children and youth with a theoretical foundation in attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and developmental trauma.
Dr Karyn Purvis was the Rees-Jones Director and co-founder of the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth Texas. She was a co-creator of Trust-Based Relational Intervention and the co-author of a best-selling book in the adoption genre, and a passionate and effective advocate for children. She coined the term “children from hard places” to describe the children she loved and served, those who have suffered trauma, abuse, neglect or other adverse conditions early in life. Her research-based philosophy for healing harmed children centered on earning trust and building deep emotional connections to anchor and empower them. On April 12, 2016, Dr. Karyn Purvis passed away at the age of 66.
TBRI involves three principles for working with kids from hard places – Connecting, Empowering, and Correcting.  The Connecting Principle asserts that the caregiver must first be mindful about themselves and what they bring to the interactions with their child. Any unresolved issues or triggers the caregiver might have could get in the way of them connecting with their child.  The Empowering Principle focuses on meeting the child’s basic needs for food and hydration, as well as meeting their sensory needs, to help the child regulate and to create an ideal environment for connecting and learning. The Empowering Principle also asserts that daily routines, rituals, and preparation for transitions are important to a child’s overall ability to regulate, as well as to build trust and connection with their caregiver.  The Correcting Principle aims to address a child’s behavioral issues in a positive way. Two important principles in the correcting component are proactive and responsive behavioral strategies. Proactive strategies focus on putting the child on the right path before they even have a chance step one foot onto the wrong path. Responsive strategies are used to mindfully react to a child’s inappropriate behavior. Two essential responsive strategies are to provide the child with choices and to encourage redo’s.
Whether this statistic is accurate or not, it is an issue close to my own heart and personal experience in life. That said, just passing this along as a kind of public service announcement from one such adoptee.
I am an adoptee whose birth mom was a drug and alcohol addicted teenager, who repeatedly abandoned me, abused me, and exposed me to abuse including child sexual abuse.
STOP USING ME AND PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A “GOTCHA” ARGUMENT FOR ADOPTION.
I couldn’t be more sick of reading, over and over, “what about the kids who actually do have abusive or neglectful birth parents, don’t they deserve adoption?”
No. There are still better ways. One of the biggest ways to prevent sad stories like mine is to fight for abortion rights, and fight against the societal narrative that vilifies aborting an unwanted child and glorifies adoption.
But most importantly, if you’re not one of us, you don’t get to use our existence as a talking point in your agenda.
(With my own apologies for making this my blog today but I thought it was important.)
Stop saying better. Start saying different. When the adoptee is rehomed, abused or killed then it’s not our problem. We can’t guarantee better. Right now adoption is based on what people want. It was based on this way ever since the government and agencies took over. It’s not about helping kids but helping yourself to kids. People don’t adopt to help kids. They adopt to become parents. To be mommy and daddy – not play mommy and daddy.
It also upsets me – the kids who aren’t seen as worthy, don’t get adopted. So again, who is adoption for ? People are waiting for a non-existent baby to be created or a baby to lose their family in foster care, so they can grow their family.
What was this in response to ?
I am a social worker by education, been out of the field for about 6 years, I worked for about 1 year in foster care/adoptions. I left the field because I felt it was difficult to make a difference/help due to all red tape and bureaucracy.
Anyway, one thing I took from my experience, was that I want to adopt. I just thought I would be loving a child, adding to the family, teaching them, helping them grow, etc.
I did believe/was taught (or something) that adopting children from foster care, etc was… making a difference, that it was in a way, giving them another chance. A chance to give them a good home, better opportunity and away from abuse, neglect, exploitation etc. Or that parents who give up their children for adoption are brave, because it’s really hard to give up a child, but they do it out of love, because at that moment they can’t provide a good life for them, etc.
I was very sad to learn that this kind of governmental judgement takes place.
“I was adopted into a foster home in the 80’s. My babies were just taken from me and are being adopted out. I keep hearing how they will be fine and have great lives and how they won’t experience the same life I have had.”
The first commenter acknowledged – “Sadly Child Protective Services does think that if you grew up in the system, you will not be good enough to be a parent.”
Yet another put forth a different perspective –
I am a former foster care youth that aged out of the system and became a foster parent. It is a lot of hard work to be a parent, especially a parent with trauma. It is something I am aware of and ‘show up and work on every day!’ But that doesn’t mean that we will not be good enough to be good parents or can’t be good parents. Does it mean we have to work harder and be aware that we have trauma that a lot of people don’t?! Yes! But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t incapable, it just means we actively work every day to be different then the generations before us! Child Protective Services asked me very extensively about my past and trauma, and I had to prove in a lot of ways how I have worked on it and that I am aware of it and continue to be aware of it. And work on my trauma and triggers as they arise. Now that doesn’t mean that former foster care youth and other people with trauma aren’t at higher risk for having Child Protective Services involved or their children removed. Because unfortunately, many of the kids I grew up with in the foster system are still in some way involved in the system or dead, it is a hard trauma to break out of. But honestly I feel like a lot of that, comes from the fact that everyone in my life, told me I would never be any better than my parents, or better then my genetics. We need to start telling these children with trauma that our pasts do not dictate our futures, we get to control them. We get to be better. And we need to help them do that. Before their inner voice turns into this message of ‘I’ll never be good enough, so why try to be better?’.
It is a tough world out there for a lot of people. Not every one has the same experience. Here is one that turned out “better” than “worse,” and still . . .
After finding my biological family and meeting my sisters, I definitely had the better life (theirs was full of switching homes, being raised by different people, drugs and addictions, and poverty). I was raised as an only child and had college paid for by my adoptive parents – up to my masters degree. They also helped me and my husband buy our house. Does adoption still affect me? Heck yeah it does. I have horrific abandonment issues, anxiety and depression.
This experience is also VERY COMMON among adoptees –
I was adopted at birth. My adoptive parents were great, and I didn’t deal with a lot of the issues I’ve seen mentioned by other adoptees (favoritism, neglect, abuse, doing the bare minimum, etc) I love them very much and consider them my parents. I would imagine my childhood is what most adoptive parents think they will provide, and birth moms think they’re giving their child up to.
But I still have always had this very deep sense of not belonging or fitting in anywhere. Feeling that everyone will leave me, I can never be good enough. I don’t ever feel “home”. I always thought there was something wrong with me, and despite my best intentions or efforts I still just couldn’t do it “right”.
And I do agree with this person –
I was adopted into an amazing family, always loved and cared for. Had a good life and am a privileged adult. I have a good relationship with my biological family too. However, I despise adoption. It affected me in negative ways regardless of my “good” adoptive family and upbringing. It also has the ability to greatly affect our children and future generations. The trauma gets passed down. Nothing about adoption is ok. It should be a crime to separate families simply because there is money to be made from a demand greater than a supply. We need to overhaul our system so that adoption is nearly non-existent, like it is in other countries.
The outcomes are always unique and individual. No need to not all or even so –
I was adopted within a year of my birth. I had crappy adoptive parents. My life became significantly better after I was kicked out. I worked extremely hard to pay my way through college and live on my own. Life got even better when they stopped talking to me permanently. My biological kids are amazing and so is my marriage. However, I still sit and wait, expecting it to all fall apart. I don’t feel deserving.
One last perspective –
I was adopted at birth and have felt “lost” my whole life – empty – and have struggled. I’ve never felt complete and have always had bonding issues even with my own children. It’s like I love mentally but emotionally it’s a struggle to feel. If that makes sense. I’ve went through years of counseling, when I was in my 40s. I’ve worked my DNA, so I know who all my people are. I have a good relationship with my birth dad and some biological siblings and I now feel complete. But the love side of me, the connection…. I still don’t have it and probably never will.
I have often described my own adoptee parents (yes, both were adopted) as “good” parents but strangely detached. I blame adoption for that.
An NPR investigation found that it’s common in every state for parents to get a bill for the cost of foster care. Case in point –
Just before Christmas in 2017, Daisy Hohman, desperate for a place to live, moved into the trailer of a friend who had an extra room to rent. After Hohman separated from her husband, she and her three kids had moved from place to place, staying with family and friends.
Two weeks after living at this new address, police raided the trailer. They found drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to court records. Others were the target. Hohman was at work at the time. No drugs were found on her, and police did not charge her.
Even so, child protective services in Wright County MN placed her two daughters, then 15 and 10, and a son, 9 in foster care. County officials argued she had left the children in an unsafe place. After 20 months in foster care, her three children were able to come back home. Then, Hohman got a bill from Wright County to reimburse it for some of the cost of that foster care. She owed: $19,530.07
Two federal laws contradict each other: One recent law directs child-welfare agencies to prioritize reuniting families. The other law, almost 40 years old, tells states to charge parents for the cost of child care, which makes it harder for families to reunite.
The NPR investigation also found that: The fees are charged almost exclusively to the poorest families; when parents get billed, children spend added time in foster care and the extra debt follows families for years, making it hard for them to climb out of poverty and the government raises little money, or even loses money, when it tries to collect.
Foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement for children, provided by state and county child welfare agencies when families are in crisis or when parents are thought to be unable to care for their children. It’s long been recognized that the best thing for most children in foster care is to be reunited with their family. While in foster care, children live with foster families, with relatives or in group settings. More than half will eventually return home. There were 407,493 children in foster care on the day the federal government counted in 2020 to get a snapshot of the population, according to a report from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families.
In 2018, Congress reformed funding for child welfare when it passed the Family First Preservation Services Act. That law tells state child welfare agencies to make it their focus to preserve families and help struggling parents get their lives back on track so that they can be safely reunited with their children. But a 1984 federal law still stands, as do additional state laws, that call for making many parents pay for some of the cost of foster care. Among the costs the federal funding pays for: shelter, food and clothing; case planning; and the training of foster parents.
Of parents who get billed for foster care: A disproportionate number are people of color. Many are homeless. Many have mental health or substance abuse problems. And almost all are poor — really poor. 80% of the families in a data analysis had incomes less than $10,000 annually. Try living off $10,000 a year. You’re in deep poverty, if you’re living off that kind of money.
Hohman followed the case plan set out by county caseworkers in 2018 and completed the steps required to get her children back. She went to family therapy sessions and submitted to random drug testing. She saved up enough money to rent an apartment in order to provide the children with safe and suitable housing. The $19,530 bill was just a few thousand dollars less than Hohman’s entire paycheck in 2019, for her seasonal work at a landscaping company. The debt went on her credit report, which made it hard to find an apartment big enough for her family or to buy a dependable car to get to work. When Hohman filed her income tax, instead of getting the large refund she expected it was garnished.
To charge poor families for the cost of foster care sets them up for failure. Mothers, often single, work overtime or take on a second job to pay off the debt forcing them to leave the kids alone and unattended. While it might not seem like that much to have to pay fifty or a hundred or two hundred dollars a month in foster care child support, if you are a very low-income, low-earnings mom, that can be the difference in being able to save money for first and last month’s rent on a decent apartment or not. The mom is at risk of losing her child again because of poverty. That doesn’t make sense from a child well-being, family well-being standpoint, or from a taxpayer standpoint.
Even a small bill delayed reunification by almost seven months. That extra time in foster care matters. It increases the cost to taxpayers since daily foster care is expensive. And it inflates the bill to parents. It matters because the clock ticking for the parents. They are given a set amount of time to prove they should be allowed to get their child(ren) back. Once a child spends 15 out of 22 months in foster care, it is federal law that the child-welfare agency must begin procedures to terminate a parent’s rights to the child with a goal of placing the child for adoption in order to find them a permanent home.
Today’s child welfare system also struggles with conflicting incentives. Laws meant to hold parents accountable can end up keeping families apart. When parents don’t pay, states garnish wages, take tax refunds and stimulus checks and report parents to credit bureaus. In the overwhelming majority of the people in the child welfare program, a significant contributor to the reason they’re in that situation is poverty. Abuse is an issue in only 16% of cases when kids go to foster care. Mostly, the issue is the parent’s neglect. Maybe there’s no food in the refrigerator or the parent is homeless or addicted. These are issues of poverty.
States don’t actually have to go after this money. There’s some leeway in the 1984 federal law. It says parents should be charged to reimburse some of the cost of foster care – when it’s appropriate but it does not define the term appropriate.
Whether it gets through or not, it is a step in the right direction. New legislation authored by California Rep. Karen Bass (D), would drastically change that standard: Under the 21st Century Children and Families Act, states could not even attempt to permanently sever children from their parents until they’d been in foster care for two full years consecutively, barring extreme circumstances — and even then it would be up to the states, and no longer a federal mandate. The reason that this is important is that the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires states to terminate parental rights when a child has been in foster care for 15 of 22 consecutive months. Granted this is just a tiny step.
“This bill is an important first step in moving away from cookie-cutter timelines that have caused devastating harm to children and families for decades,” said Kathleen Creamer, managing attorney of the family advocacy unit for Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.
Existing exemptions would be maintained for certain “aggravated” circumstances, such as when parents have committed sexual abuse or have been involved with the death of another child. But the legislation would free parents from the federal timeline when their custody rights are threatened due to incarceration or immigration detention — or in cases where they are actively working with the court to overcome hurdles in their lives to successfully bring the family back together. Parents are not subjected to the federal timeline if their children are placed with relatives.
Under the bill, if a state so chooses, it could eliminate all timeline requirements, except in cases involving aggravated circumstances.
Bass announced her landmark legislation in a news release Thursday. “It’s time to update old child welfare laws,” she said. “More needs to be done to improve foster kids’ options for stability in their lives. Premature modification of parental rights too often leaves children in foster care with no legal family.”
The legislation is at the earliest possible stage, and far from guaranteed, with many elements that could lead to controversy, including strengthening the rights of prospective LGBTQ parents. The bill could also be challenged by representatives of the adoption industry, policy watchers said.
“With respect to the timelines, we’ll be looking at those proposed changes carefully and considering how they affect children and families involved in foster care, especially BIPOC children and families, given the systemic discrimination they face,” said Mary Boo, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.
Children removed from their homes following allegations of abuse or neglect remain in foster care while their parents address the issues that landed them there, issues typically arising from extreme poverty. Under family and dependency court oversight, local child welfare systems must mitigate the circumstances that led to the child’s removal into foster care, offering the parents therapy, anger management, parenting classes and drug treatment, as well as the time necessary to overcome situational crises such as homelessness or illness.
But that time is often not enough. The pandemic has brought heightened scrutiny to the “cruelty” of federal timelines. Parents such as Charles Redding of Minnesota have fought to regain custody of their children when circumstances are stacked against them to no fault of their own. Redding, for instance, had emerged from jail with no computer to attend court-mandated hearings and online classes, and the local center where he needed to go for drug testing suspended services. Earlier this year, Redding’s two children sobbed through a virtual court appearance, imploring a Hennepin County juvenile court judge to give their dad more time to secure stable housing for them to live together.
David Kelly, a former official in the U.S. Children’s Bureau, called the bill introduced this week “a critical, long overdue step toward justice for families,” adding: “I hope it proves a galvanizing moment for realizing the family children need most is their own.”
Bass is a longstanding champion of children and parents caught up in the foster care system — families who are disproportionately Black and Native American. She is among those emphasizing that the bar for reunification is often too high, and the impact of permanent family separation too damaging to continue the federal standards as they currently exist.
“The changes that I’m proposing today focus the foster care system on the child and the idea that children should be at the center of our efforts,” Bass stated.
Her legislation would require that before moving to terminate parental rights, states must describe the steps they took and services they provided to help keep a family together. It would also mandate data collection on the accessibility and availability of those services.
Shanta Trivedi, director of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the University of Baltimore said that while states are already required under law to provide services under a “reasonable efforts” standard, the proposed law will ensure that protocol is followed for every family.
“This puts teeth into the ‘reasonable efforts’ requirement that were previously absent,” Trivedi said.
The bill has another key element: It adds sexual orientation, gender identity and religion to federal nondiscrimination protections that previously only included race and ethnicity. Under the proposed law, states and agencies they contract with could not “deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent” based on those additional factors. The provision would directly challenge laws in nearly a dozen states that permit faith-based providers to exclude members of the LGBTQ community by following religious ideology in choosing which foster and adoptive parents, or even which youth in foster care, they will and will not serve.
The legislation proposed by Bass retains current legal requirements that adoptions cannot be delayed to match children with families of the same race, gender, culture and religion. But it instructs states to consider such factors if that is requested by the child or their birth parent.
When the Adoption and Safe Families Act became law decades ago, nearly a third of all foster children had been in the system for at least three years. The timeline was designed to push those cases in the direction of adoptions or guardianships so that children didn’t languish with uncertain futures.
Since then, adoptions from foster care have more than doubled — from 30,000 in 1998 to 66,000 in 2019. Over the past decade, federal statistics show that the number of children awaiting adoption has also increased, by more than 20%.
The attempt to rewrite ASFA comes at a time when some are pushing for its outright repeal, including Jerry Milner, the Trump-era head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Along with Kelly, his former deputy, Milner now leads a consulting group helping state and local systems interested in significant reforms of their child welfare systems, including the strengthening of family bonds so children can avoid permanent family separation.
Critics of the current timeline that pushes for termination of parental rights after 15 months describe it as arbitrary and unjust to the families who mostly come from communities of color where daily life and the weight of historic and systemic injustice can bear down on home life. Advocates for parents say the federal timeline also penalizes people in recovery for substance abuse or seeking treatment for mental health challenges — complex healing that can take time and involve relapse and setbacks.
In a February 2021 op-ed, Creamer and Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the NYU School of Law Family Defense Clinic, described the social context around the original law: “Passed in the wake of the now-debunked ‘crack baby’ scare, and at the same time as nefarious federal laws on crime and welfare, it reflected the racial and class biases that were ascendant at the time and that to this day continue to inflict harm on children, youth and families.”
Under the proposed legislation, a 24-month timeline was selected to align with the Family First Prevention Services Act, a 2018 law that overhauled the federal child welfare system to decrease reliance on group homes and emphasize foster care prevention. But as it is currently worded in the Bass bill, states could choose not to abide by the two-year timeline — the legislation as written uses the word “may” — not “shall” — while continuing to receive federal funds for the children who remain in foster care.
“We are hopeful that this is just the beginning of making sure that states have the flexibility they need to embrace and uphold family integrity,” said Shereen White, director of policy and advocacy for the national nonprofit Children’s Rights.
Child welfare policy consultant Maureen Flatley, who helped craft both the original Adoption and Safe Families Act and Bass’ new bill, said the additional protections for parents would not only help more children reunify with their families, it could reduce the number of young adults who leave foster care alone and disconnected from stable housing, income or a support system.
Flatley said while the timelines can succeed at creating a greater sense of urgency around permanency for foster youth, roughly 22,000 youth still age out of foster care each year with no legal family ties. Meanwhile, many of their parents may simply have needed more time to complete court-ordered service plans.
“By maintaining those family connections and those relationships, we may be able to mitigate and limit the number of kids who are aging out alone,” Flatley said.
Under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act, states have received financial incentives to push foster children along the adoption path, despite critics’ objections. Bass’s bill does not address adoption incentives, instead taking aim at timelines that lead to the termination of parental rights — a critical first step for children to be adopted.
Still, even staunch detractors of the existing law applauded Bass’s attempt to update it through a social justice lens.
“I don’t know what the chances are for passage, but the fact that we can even have this discussion shows that the racial justice reckoning finally is reaching child welfare,” said Richard Wexler, an outspoken foster care critic and executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. “If it passes, it will improve the lives of, ultimately, millions of children.”
What causes such a sweet face to create such a pained looking smile ? It is Isabella’s smile in the most recent pictures that disturbs me on some psychic level. The adoptive parents (Lehua or Isaac Kalua) are now strongly suspected of having murdered the 6 year old a full month before they reported her missing in Hawaii. They have now been arrested and are awaiting a hearing to provide them with legal counsel. There is an article about the current state of the case at this link from Maui.
I found a dissertation by Katherine E Sunder titled Mothers Who Kill Children They Have Adopted. Her dissertation topic is described this way – A mother killing her child is a disturbing and puzzling crime. A review of the cases in the United States from 1993 through 2013 that involved mothers who killed children they had adopted was conducted. The similarities and differences between mothers who kill their adopted children and mothers who kill their biological children are described. The common factors and general patterns that exist among these mothers are examined to propose a theory for why a mother decides to kill her adopted child.
While an average of four children die every day from child abuse and neglect in the United States, adoption is often put forth as a way to try and prevent such tragedies from occurring. Generally, parents who adopt domestically and also internationally are described as extremely devoted and committed to family. They are described as people who will literally “lay everything on the line” to parent a child. Considering the rigorous and demanding process these parents go through in order to adopt a child, it raises the question of why would a mother kill the child or children she adopted ?
However, the killing of a child is not an arbitrary or unpredictable crime. Instead, it can be viewed and experienced as imbedded in and a reflection of the societies in which it occurs. Abuse by adoptive parents is often mentioned by adoptees in privacy constrained groups. In an abuse-related killing of a child, the mother has intentionally committed a purposeful physical assault that unintentionally led to the child’s death. The purpose was not to kill the child but to provide harsh discipline. 80% of these cases involve the child welfare services in their background. Some cases involve the mother’s attempt to stop the child from crying. Some cases involve an abusive relationship with a violent male partner.
Isabella’s body has not yet been found and it is not known what may have caused her death. Homicide investigators say, “What was initially reported was that she had left her home in the middle of the night, and when they [her adoptive parents] woke up they didn’t see her.” Police say support from the city deputy prosecuting attorneys and individuals from the domestic violence division was critical getting police where they are today in their now eight-week investigation. Also the FBI is credited with offering evidentiary analysis that was extremely valuable including behavioral analysis unit into the mindset of the suspects in this case.
Situation: My two nephews are in permanent guardianship. My husband and I have had them for almost one year. The reason for removal was 9 Dept of Child Services cases, many of which involving physical abuse and neglect.
The kids’ mother has not taken any classes, or worked toward getting the children back. She has gotten herself a place to live, so that is improvement. However, nothing else has been done.
We do two hour visits every other week. Not mandated by the court, but just to keep the boys in contact with mom. The father will not answer calls, texts, or requests for visits. It’s been six months since the father has messaged us back. Honestly, not hearing from their father is hurting the 7 year old really badly.
The mom has recently asked “to be more involved in the kids’ lives”. When I asked her what she meant by that, she said she wants to be present for the kids’ doctor’s appointments, specifically the 7 year old’s psychiatric appointments. I feel that her being involved in those appointments is out of line. So I said no. She was very upset by it. I just can’t find it appropriate to have her involved in my nephew learning coping strategies and healing, at least not until the therapist requests the mom’s presence.
My rambling here is due to – I don’t want to fuck up these kids. I want them to live happy, healthy, lives free of trauma. I hear a lot of adoptees wish to have been left with their biological parents, is this the case with physical abuse as well? Doesn’t that seem a little Stockholm syndrome like? I mean, obviously it’s different because children will always have a deep love and connection with their biological parents. But at what point is it okay to say it is more traumatic to live with mom than it is to be placed within another home?
The three year old is now starting to call my husband dad, due to him never seeing his real dad. We correct it, but he insists on dad. We just try to correct it and move on.
I’m not sure if mom will ever try to get her kids back. We are ready to care for them as long as needed. However, my question is, at what point, if any should we terminate rights? We are capable of doing so in May. However, from reading in this group, is it best to just remain as permanent guardians? Therefore the birth certificates and other legal documents are not amended? The negative to that is, we cannot Will children in guardianship. So, let’s say we both die – what happens to the kids? Would it be in the court’s hands (probably foster care)? That concerns us.
I’m happy to receive any opinions or guidance as this is not something I know a lot about. We never planned for this to happen. It was kinship placement with us through guardianship or foster care. Thank you for all of your time. I wish to limit the amount of trauma that my little nephews will have to deal with.
My concern as well was about the child feeling free to be honest and face whatever issues the abuse has caused. So this comment resonated with me –
If mom wants to be more involved, she needs to do the work of parenting classes, before being able to participate in her child’s psychiatric care. I was ultimately removed from my parents raising me for abuse. At 37, I’m still in the thick of trauma therapy. Therapy needs to be a safe place for guards to come down, otherwise it won’t be productive. It’s hard for therapy to be safe, when the person whose created the trauma is in that space. Especially when you’re a child. Had she been wanting to be involved with another aspect of his life, then as long as your nephew also desired that, it would be okay. Adoption is trauma, but so is abuse, and the messages we internalize from abuse can take a lifetime to reverse. I sincerely hope she does the work she needs to, to be safe for her child. For both their sakes.