Sadly, Money Often Rules

Today’s story (not directly my own but another mother’s – I was also made desperate by a lack of financial resources with my own young daughter and so I have a lot of empathy for these situations).

Here’s the other person’s experience – I was that young mother capable of parenting but due to a lack of resources, such as housing and just generally not being as monetarily stable as the prospective adoptive parents (foster parents after a child protective services intervention) it was never a question of IF I acted properly with my child, the only question was – who could provide more for him ?

She notes that it is so important to help women who are struggling similarly. I had people that had helped me along the way but I always wonder, what IF ? There are definitely pressures to sign a Termination of Parental Rights. It’s disgusting tactic used with young vulnerable mothers. Especially true with those who are actually capable of parenting. I wish I had some magic resource to help other women in that situation and make their lives easier. I’m glad that some of these mothers have a truly supportive person in their corner. Even if it is just the belief in a struggling young mother’s ability to be a good mother. That means more than she will ever be able to say to you.

Her story continues, in my own situation, I was so beat up and torn down by child protective services, that I eventually thought maybe I wasn’t what was best for my child. It was excruciating and tore my world apart. 

Never think something like this could never happen to good people because every day it does. We do not support families in this society as much as we should.

Mental Health and Regrets

An expectant mother says “I’m not sure with my mental health I can parent another child.” This is despite the fact, that she is a good parent to her first child and that child isn’t suffering. Does she really think giving away her baby is going to do wonders for her mental health? She may be the happy mommy for a while after doing, this with no regrets. But she can only lie to her self for so long. Eventually, she is likely to wake up and wonder wtf did I do?

One woman replied – I was this mother. I placed my 3rd. I had absolutely NO idea what it would do to me.. it absolutely broke me! I could barely function for almost 2 years. I don’t think people really understand what giving away a child means. Adoption is pushed as sunshine and rainbows in society, so I think we somewhat look at it in a positive light when we are contemplating making that choice. . But no it absolutely will NOT help your mental state in any way.

And she is alone, another one said – Me too. And yet another one said – Same with my third also. Fact is, it is the rare person who won’t realize they exchanged one set of mental health issues for another and this one lasts a lifetime for yourself, the child, other children, etc…Then this, my mental health took a nose dive after adoption. Mentally I always struggled but since then, I have been in and out of behavioral health facilities and have made 3 suicide attempts. Someone else thought – it’s a way to delay the trauma and people should be honest that all you’re doing is delaying it and compounding it later.

On that last note, came this reply – i think that also delays trauma for many in a different way, too sadly. Granted each can choose for themselves but I have supported friends who have chosen this route for a variety of reason and again, they weren’t supported after or informed of just what an emotional roller coaster it can take you on, for a VERY long time.

Now I get that’s not for everyone and some may not be as impacted by it, but my friends who have (and many were moms already) came to me and told me, they wished they had listened to me (because I told them – I’m not sure it’s going to help in the ways that you believe it would help) and many were seriously already struggling (hence not feeling able to add another kid) and they didn’t think they could nose dive further but many have. In fact, one reached out this week to me talking about how 2 years after, she still regrets it and wishes she had listened to me.

I believe support for people who go this route is lacking and very much needed – many are left to deal with it in silence and it’s a dirty secret and they have guilt and shame, which contributes to more issues they have in the long run because they don’t have a proper healing outlet to deal with all the feelings and even physical stuff sometimes after (my one girlfriend ended up with an infection and needed to be hospitalized which compounded the trauma).

Finally, this – If there are reasons causing these feelings they usually stem from trauma and lack of support – and if those were addressed, it would be still hard to parent (cuz lets be real – its hard!!) but when you have a better support system vs a system working against you (like Child Protective Services or whatever). I said to my original mom recently, what happened after Termination of Parental Rights ? She jumped at the judge when he said they weren’t her kids now, they were HIS. She spent the night IN JAIL after losing her kids. 

Family Just Ought To Come First

My family is fractured by adoption but thankfully, those who went away have reunited with the rest of us and those we never knew are better known now thanks to those who did know my original grandparents. So, today’s unbelievable but true story.

Looking to find sources to help bring my cousin home. We have signed an intent to adopt and filled out licensing paperwork to adopt my 18 month old cousin. He has been in care 15 months and we only found out about this the last week in June. On July 1st, I started emailing the case worker asking for placement and expressing our interest in adopting, if it came to that. I got no reply. On July 11th, the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) happened. I emailed everyday after expressing our interest and explaining we were already licensed to foster. We finally got to have a visit with him on Aug 1st and again, this past Friday via zoom. We have virtual bi-weekly visits set up because we are 10 hours away. We are the first members in our family to get to see him aside from mom and dad since he has been in care. The agency has made it clear that the foster parents have also signed an intent to adopt, so we are viewed as a competing party to them. They have now had him for almost 7 months. There is a post TPR hearing this week. The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) said it will probably only be a 10 min hearing and that probably nothing will happen at that hearing. The agency has made it clear they don’t plan on changing his placement until they give a recommendation regarding who they feel the best family fit is to adopt him and gives consent, then the judge orders the child’s placement. Please help If you can.

The response from a former foster care youth – It pisses me off foster parents do this and the state supports foster parents doing this. My heart hurts that so many kids miss out on being with family. My advice is don’t believe and never believe foster parents, the GAL, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), caseworker, or anyone else in the system. They’re all for themselves. Don’t believe in the “child is bonding” crap either. They use this to keep kids and adopt them out to strangers. Don’t fall for the open adoption crap either. I agree with hiring a lawyer. I wanted to comment and say “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry you can’t get your cousin and I’m sorry foster parents and the state are selfish people. If the child is a child they are willing to disrupt, a perceived bond won’t matter, if that is disrupted again. I missed out on being with family because Child Protective Services (CPS) didn’t care, even though I did go back. However, I could’ve avoided 24 foster homes if CPS did their jobs and placed me with family. Nobody understands the trauma they’re putting kids through by not keeping them with family.

Ethics In Adoption

Adoption is a BIG Business

From an adoption community post –

There is an economy at work in adoption.

Let’s begin with adoption agencies –

An adoption agency connects hopeful adoptive parents with expectant mothers in crisis who may wish to relinquish their child for adoption. In the process of negotiating, the adoption agency receives money from the hopeful adoptive parents (in most cases), and sometimes (rarely) from expectant mothers. The money is used to pay for the associated legal fees, the matching service, and sometimes for care for the expectant mother. This money also pays the salaries of the agency employees. This is true even if the agency is listed as a “not for profit” agency. The employees, social workers, and directors are not working for free.

Hopeful adoptive parents reach out to agencies for help in finding an available child (usually an infant) to adopt. There are 40 hopeful adoptive parents (couples/families) for every infant available for adoption. That is an estimate, some say it may be as high as 1,000 hopeful adoptive parents for every infant who becomes available for adoption.

If you look on websites and in social media, an expectant mother who indicates anywhere that she is considering adoption, will receive hundreds, often thousands, of responses from people who would like to adopt her baby. The demand far exceeds the supply of infants available for adoption. In the leaked Supreme Court draft written by Alito he makes a note of that lack of supply.

So, let’s apply the law of supply and demand –

In order for an agency (which, whether for profit or not for profit, stands to make money from the transaction) to keep itself in business, the agency must provide a certain percentage of infants for the demand. When supply is low and demand is high, coercion enters into these transactions. Agencies must obtain children for their market and are willing to do whatever it takes to supply that market. Social workers and agency contacts do whatever it takes to convince an expectant mother that one of their adoptive couples is better for her child, than she could ever be.

If she receives any money from the agency to cover her expenses but then decides she wants to parent, they will call her a “scammer” or a “fraud.” In many states there is no revocation period during which a woman who has given birth but indicated she is willing to give up her baby can change her mind. Those are considered “adoption-friendly” states Some have short revocation periods. In many cases, social workers pressure expectant mothers to hand their babies over and sign their termination of parental rights, while the new mother is still within the first 48 hours after birth.

Coercive tactics are part and parcel of domestic infant adoption. International infant adoption is even more coercive and heinous because some parents are not even told that their legal rights to their child are being severed.

So, what about the children in foster care ? They’ve already had their parental rights severed. Some hopeful adoptive parents believe they are only motivated to help these unfortunate children. But there’s an economy at work there too. You can be forgiven for not knowing that, thanks to the many promotions of this method of adoption by various states. A federal stipend is paid to foster parents for children of all ages, from under a year old until they age out of the foster care system at 18.

In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) went into effect. Its purpose was to achieve permanency for children who had been in foster care for a long period of time by having them adopted. The intent of the law was good: permanent placements for children who had been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Its implementation, however, has proven faulty. It has amplified the corruption that has always been endemic within the Child Protective Services system.

The ASFA provides federal stipends to state agencies for each adoption they process out of foster care. Because the states receive money for having children adopted out of foster care, they now have a financial incentive to take children from actually SAFE families and place them into foster homes, so that they can be adopted. The more recent Family First Prevention Services Act includes federal funds to pay for services aimed at preventing the use of foster care by providing better support to parents at risk of losing custody of their children.

Regarding the current concept of “Foster to Adopt” –

Foster parents already receive a generous stipend from the state for caring for the state’s ward. Often, a foster parent will even receive an infant fresh from the hospital due to “risk of future harm” from their parents. These infants are placed with foster parents whose aim is to adopt. Both the foster parents (who wanted to adopt an infant) and the state child protection agency (which receives federal monies for every adoption from foster care) stand to gain from the adoption of this infant “out of foster care.”

The economic implications of adoption are the most straightforward and fact-based way to address whether ethical adoption is even possible. To whatever degree this all matters to you personally – consider the social impact of adoption and the reasons why adoption is considered unethical based upon social reasons.

Include in your considerations why children are removed by protective agencies simply due to perceived neglect caused only by poverty. Consider how it is possible that stipend money paid to them somehow makes foster caregivers more fit to parent than the biological parents. Look into the statistics for suicide and mental health issues among adoptees. Contemplate why laws promote adoption rather than legal guardianship.

Adoption is a contract made between two people – in which a third person is subjected to its ramifications – without their consent. Thank you for contemplating the ethical ramifications of adoption and the use by the state of foster care to increase adoptions.

When It Is Family

A woman’s sister writes – My sister asked me to care for her baby. The mom signed the form to terminate her parental rights, when her baby was only 2 days old. She had been in a car accident during pregnancy and lost her job. She is now financially stable, has her life together (her baby is only 5 months old now) and wants me to discontinue my adoption process regarding her baby.

The problem is – we don’t want to give her baby back. Is there anything legal – my sister, the baby’s biological mom – can do ? We’re so close to finalizing the adoption, all that is left is the home study. What do we tell our child, when she’s older, about why we refused to give her back to her original mom ?

Just goes to prove, that just because we are siblings born into the same family, once we are adults, all bets are off. I’ve seen it many times in many situations.

One commenter said – I truly can not fathom doing something so obviously horrible and disgusting. The fact that this woman is aware that what she’s doing is wrong because she wants to know what to tell the child (once they get older), well, it just makes it even worse. How incredibly selfish. That poor baby !

Important points not to miss – this women is the mother’s sister ! The baby’s Aunt ! In MANY families …. family members do HELP family members in crisis, to care for their children. Often via a parent-placed, joint custody with the more stable family having primary physical custody. The best thing about this is that there is no need to change the baby’s birth certificate. Any sister could raise her sister’s child appropriately, while calling herself Auntie. In some Indigenous cultures, it is not unusual for a primary caregiver to be called “Auntie” when that person is not the child’s actual mother. A term of endearment for the care given.

An overwhelmed pregnant women in crisis. with poverty related issues of housing, employment, transportation, food and daycare insecurity …. such a woman is easily manipulated into thinking she is not enough. Then in this particular case, add the huge factor of her physical injuries ….

This woman never offered her sister the option of providing temporary care. It was adoption or no help at all. That makes it very easy to see how this situation developed.

Most infants placed in foster care will remain there an average of 15 months with maybe 2 – six month extensions. That this Mom got herself back together in under 6 months is phenomenal. She has maintained contact with her infant and is now in a position to parent her child. Ethically this is a No-Brainer. This woman should definitely reunify her niece with her original mom. Need to tell other children why ? Family helps family. OK, someday you can tell the child that you did miss her living with you but you don’t regret doing the right thing at the time.

5 months is only the blink of an eye in this child’s life. Transitioning this baby as soon as possible back to the child’s original mother is important. Time is of the essence. Do the right thing !!

So often a pregnant woman in temporary crisis is pushed into a permanent solution – and then things get better. Most adult adoptees will counsel such a woman to sincerely try parenting her child first, before surrendering the child to adoption. Many times, this leads to a happy ending for mother and child.

Krista Driver NPE

Today’s story comes from an essay in Right To Know. NPE stands for non-paternity event (also known as misattributed paternity, not parent expected, or NPE) is when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is not in fact the biological father. This presumption may be on the part of the individual, the parents, or the attending midwife, physician or nurse.

The story that was told to her was that her mother was 15 years old and homeless, living in a van, and making a lot of poor choices as many troubled teens do. She didn’t have adult supervision, and drugs and parties and a little bit of crime-ing seemed like good ideas to her at the time. One winter day, she was arrested for “breaking and entering.” The police found her in a pile of dirty clothes in the back of her mother’s van. Her mother went to juvenile hall and she went to the hospital. They say, she weighed only 2 lbs and diagnosed her as “Failure to Thrive”. The doctor told the social worker, “It will be a miracle if this baby lives through the night”. She acknowledges, “I guess I wasn’t ready to ‘give up’ because I lived to tell the tale.”

After some years in foster care, about the time she turned 4 years old, she was taken into court and her mother was there. When she entered the courtroom, her mother was telling the judge, “They can have her now and then give her back to me when she’s about 10”. He tapped the papers on his desk and said, “I’ve seen enough”. And with that, he ended her mother’s parental rights, and Krista was now eligible to be adopted by her foster family.

She shares, “Doctor visits were always weird because I had to remind them every visit that I was adopted and therefore did not know my family’s medical information. The worst was the school family tree assignments.” LOL, she admits, “I just made stuff up. One year, my family were missionaries in China and lived off bugs in the forest. Another year, my parents were in hiding from the Mexican mafia and we were in the witness protection program. Every year, the stories become more outlandish. And not one adult asked me what was going on with me—maybe because they all knew I was adopted and didn’t want to talk about that because people just didn’t talk about adoption back then.”

She continues her story –

When I was about 12, I saw an Oprah Winfrey show on “Adoptees and Happy Reunions” and I distinctly recall wishing I could have a “happy reunion” with my mother. I mean, I figured enough time had passed so surely she was more mature and sober. There were no computers or internet back then, so I walked down to the library and looked through phone books. I copied down ALL the people with her last name and then I snail-mailed letters to all five of them. One ended up with my birth mother’s grandparents and one with her sister. Naturally, I hadn’t told anyone I was even going to look, so imagine my parent’s surprise when one night my great-grandfather called.

My parents took me to meet my great-grandparents and they were nice enough. He showed me some of the genealogy he had done, and I was instantly fascinated. From that moment on, I’ve loved genealogy and researching ancestry. They told my parents not to allow me to meet my birth mother because “She had a lot of problems and it wouldn’t be good for me to meet her”. So, just like that, the adults in my world decided it wasn’t in my best interests to meet her without even bothering to ask what I wanted or thought.

And this part is sad – It wasn’t until many years later that I fully came face to face with a harsh truth about my great-grandparents. They knew about me when I was born. They knew I was in foster care. They knew Sharon was “trying” to get me back. And yet, they left me there. They didn’t help her. She was 15 and living on the streets. They let their great-grandchild spend the first four years of her life in foster care. Then they met me at age 12. Once. And never called or wrote or anything after that. I will never understand why they made those choices.

Krista chose the field of psychology as her career path. In grad school, she once again had that dang family tree assignment. This time she decided to do it with real people and real information. So, she dug out her biological aunt’s phone number and called her for help. She agreed and they arranged a day for Krista to drive down to San Diego to meet her. On that day, her aunt decided it would be a good day for Krista to meet her biological mom, their mother, and her brothers. She admits – The only problem was that she neglected to tell me. I walked into a family reunion of sorts and I was not prepared. It was very, VERY, overwhelming. I was 21 and I simply did not have the emotional maturity to withstand all the emotions that flew at me and in me and around me. I was stunned into silence.

She describes the moment she saw her mom, Sharon, and they locked eyes. The woman had no idea who Krista was. One of her uncles went over and told her mother. When recognition hit her eyes, so did something else. From where Krista was standing – it looked like shame and guilt and an intense desire to flee. Somehow they bridged the distance and hugged. Her mother kept saying, “you’re so beautiful”. Krista says, “And I felt nothing. And I felt everything. And time stood still. And the past rushed in. It was the most confusing moment of my entire life.”

Her mother told Krista “Michael” was her father. She found him and met with him. He told her he remembered Sharon and a baby, but that he wasn’t her father. Michael was with her the day she got arrested and Krista was taken away. Later he ran into Sharon and she told him the baby died, and he went on with his life. Then, Krista shows up 21 years later claiming to be his daughter. Leaving his house one day he said to her, “I’m not your father, but I will be one if you need one”. She says, he really was a sweet man who had made a lot of mistakes in his past, but he married an amazing woman and had two lovely children. For 26 years, she thought he was her biological father. And after the night she met her mother, Sharon, they did develop a pretty good relationship though their relationship was complicated. 

Eventually, she did an Ancestry DNA test. Michael was right. He isn’t her father. Thomas is. He was 35 and her mother was 15, when Krista was conceived. A lot like the parentage of both of my own adoptee parents. Each was young (though in their 20s, not teenagers) and the fathers were both much older men. Reminds me of the time my husband and I tried to do some match-making for his dad’s twin brother only to discover he was only interested in much younger women. LOL

When Krista asked her mother who Thomas was and she just started crying. She let her mother know she would be willing to speak with her when her mother was ready to tell her the truth. They never spoke again. Sharon died unexpectedly a few months later and took her secrets to her grave. Well, actually, Sharon’s ashes are in Krista’s closet sitting right next to her stuffed monkey George. Sharon was 62 years old. Yet, Krista knows her mother also lied about so many things.

She says there were little to no resources here in the US. The UK had quite a bit of data (clinical studies) to pull from. Krista began to formulate a really good sense of how to define what she was feeling and put some contours around her experience. From there, she was able to identify healthy, impactful ways to walk through this NPE landscape. Solo. She didn’t have a single person who could identify with what she was going through.

Krista has turned this into her practice as a therapist. She trains other clinicians who are interested in working with this population. She has opened up virtual support groups for NPE (adult and adolescents), NPE Dads (biological dads), and NPE Wives (those whose husbands discover a child). She also works with people one-on-one and has worked with people from all across the US and from other countries. She is honored to note there will be a major clinical study here in the US (starting in the very near future) that she will be involved in.

She ends her essay with this – With the advent of home DNA kits, it’s not a matter of IF your secrets are revealed, it’s a matter of WHEN. The “recovery” isn’t necessarily linear, but it is survivable. I promise you that.

Re-Adoption and Inheritance

The answer can be complicated and it is advised to consult an attorney. Here’s the backstory.

My Mom called today and asked if she could re-adopt me back. She and my biological siblings want to include me in family legalities/trusts/wills/etc. I am not opposed at all and delighted that she and my siblings want this to be. I will be 38 in a couple weeks and live in the US but we live in different states. I do not talk to my adopted family except my adopted sister, due to some horrific abuse and continuous support by the biological family of the abuser/s over me and others (surprise, surprise). I will be inheriting some of the estate from my adopted family (they think it’s shut up money/absolves their guilt possibly?) I have quite a few medical/psychiatric bills from well….everything about them and feel reimbursement for that is the least they can do, and anything extra will be used to help families hire decent lawyers to keep their own children from the broken system. So my question is, will being adopted back into my biological family cause any legal ramifications for me? Or can I move forward and add another band-aid to my soul??

I have been aware of inheritance rights for adoptees in Texas, especially regarding my mom who had a sizeable inheritance involved. I found this pro-adoption advice site article (Adoptees and Inheritance) which includes a bit of disclaimer – while the following information isn’t legal advice, it may offer you a better understanding of the inheritance rights of adopted children.

Especially this section but other parts of that linked information may be useful –

Can an Adopted Child Inherit from Biological Parents?

Sometimes. Because your biological parents’ legal parental rights to you were terminated, you have no automatic legal rights to their inheritance or assets. That legal connection is instead transferred to your adoptive parents.

However, birth parents can choose to include any biological children, including you, as a beneficiary in their will. As long as none of their other family members contest the will and your inclusion, that request is honored. Birth parents will need to be clear in their will about how to contact you, so their estate manager can get in touch with you about inheritance.

If your birth parents die without making a will, or if they don’t include you in their will, then you will not automatically inherit from them, unlike your adoptive parents.

Although you can be listed as a beneficiary in your biological parents’ wills, you may not always be able to contest their wills, as you don’t have a legal connection to them (unlike your adoptive parents). But this all simply depends on your individual situation and your personal relationship with your birth parents, so consult your attorney if you think you need to contest a birth parent’s will.

And there was this opinion from the all things adoption group –

The legal ramifications of being re-adopted vary from state to state (in regards to inheritance, it would be the deceased person’s state or wherever the will is probated). The document linked below covers the very basics regarding adoption and inheritance, but may be helpful. In some states being adopted does not sever inheritance rights, so the adoptee can inherit from both “natural” (in original case above, the first adoptive parents) and adoptive family members estates, so long as relationships have been maintained, which I didn’t realize, but it just depends on the individual state…

Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

Losing Mom to Domestic Femicide

Not my usual adoption related story but adoption does come in at the end. Definitely a “Missing Mom” story. It isn’t a blog I really feel good about writing and yet, I believe this cautionary tale is important. Andy Borowitz, who generally writes satire, brought my attention to this story his wife has been investigating – The Murderer’s Little Boy by Olivia Gentile. <– You can read the sad details at this link. As a woman (as I am sure is not unusual for many women), I have been afraid at times due to some response by my romantic partner or spouse (I’ve been married more than once). It is a dangerous world and very dangerous for women, who have been described as the “weaker” sex and not without reason. I grew up in Texas and I apologize for feeling at this point like I have to say – “because Texas”. The state seems to me today to hate women in general – to be very misogynistic.

Losing a mother to domestic femicide is “the most horrific trauma that children can experience,” said Peter Jaffe, the child psychologist. Afterward, they are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociation, attachment difficulties, behavioral problems, and many other issues. To heal, Jaffe said, they need a caregiver who engages with them appropriately and truthfully about the murder, helps them mourn and honor their mother, and enrolls them in long-term trauma therapy. 

This is very much like the trauma and behavioral impacts that a lot of adoptees suffer from.

Far more children whose fathers kill their mothers are placed with maternal than with paternal kin, research suggests, though exact numbers aren’t known. No laws specify which side of the family is preferable, but in all custody cases, judges are supposed to address the child’s “best interest.” Paternal relatives must be carefully screened, Jaffe said. Since abuse is often intergenerational, the family’s entire history should be reviewed. Furthermore, anyone who enabled the killer’s abuse, remains aligned with him, intends to keep him in the child’s life, or “tries to wipe out the maternal family in the same way the perpetrator wiped out the mother” is presumptively unfit.

His maternal grandmother was forced to file a lawsuit to get visitation rights from the paternal side. Filed on March 15, 2017, she argued that as R.’s grandmother, she had standing to seek custody because the child’s present circumstances could “significantly impair” his emotional development. Her suit failed but she appealed.

Finally, in April 2018, 15 months after she last saw R., a panel from the First Court of Appeals convened a hearing on the maternal grandmother’s pleas. In their questions, the three judges seemed to convey concern for the boy’s welfare. Wasn’t it potentially harmful for R. to be raised by a man whose son had confessed to killing his mother? Wasn’t it worrisome that his father could see R. whenever the grandfather allowed him to? 

The judges ordered the parties into mediation, specifying that the mediator be from Houston, not Galveston County where the paternal kin were prominent. The resulting agreement, signed in July 2018, affirmed the maternal grandmother’s standing to pursue custody and gave her two mornings a month with R. as the case continued. Yet the deal stipulated that the visits be supervised by the paternal grandfather or by someone he chose, and it barred the grandmother from discussing R.’s mother or half-brother with him or showing him their pictures. 

Fearing an acquittal due to complicating circumstances, prosecutors made a deal with the murderer. At trial, he would have faced up to 99 years in prison for murder. Under his plea agreement, signed on November 25, 2019, he received 30 years for murder and 20 for tampering, with the sentences running concurrently. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2033.

The custody trial was scheduled for April 2020. But in a new twist to this story, in March, the paternal grandfather obtained another delay: he wanted to adopt R. and had obtained his murderer son’s willingness to cede his own parental rights. The maternal grandmother asked the court to stop the adoption. Her luck now was that there is a new Judge Kerri Foley. She appointed an attorney, Genevieve McGarvey, as a neutral assistant in the adoption case. Later, Foley added McGarvey to the custody case, too. For the first time in four years, an official was tasked with helping the court advance R.’s best interest. 

At a hearing in September 2020, McGarvey testified that R. wasn’t in trauma therapy and needed it “desperately.” She added, “[H]e’s got to talk about his mother more.” And he appeared to miss his half-brother profoundly. “The first thing he ever says when I see him is, ‘How’s J.?’ ‘Do you know J.?’”

Foley halted the adoption case until after the custody trial. But the trial has been repeatedly delayed and won’t happen until this summer at the earliest. Tired of waiting, his maternal grandmother filed a motion on February 2 demanding temporary joint custody in the meantime. A hearing is scheduled for March 21.

Judge Foley recently granted the grandmother longer visits with R., and she’s now allowed to bring his half-brother. But she wants the standard access granted to Texans who don’t reside with their kids: two to three weekends per month, alternating holidays and school breaks, and 30 days in summer.

Understandably the grandmother wants to protect R. She wants to get him into trauma therapy, and she wants to participate in decisions about his medical care and education. Recently, he has bounced from school to school and struggled. She wants to talk freely with him about his mother, whom he remembers and misses. And she wants to terminate his father’s rights and bar him from contacting R.—either from prison or upon his release. 

Even if the grandmother prevails at trial, her struggle won’t be over, since joint custody could be meaningless if the paternal grandfather’s adoption goes through. The grandmother is determined to continue to fight for her grandson.  “R. has never wavered in his desire to see us or just surrendered to the horror of circumstances,” she said. If he won’t give up, how could she? 

Some organizations with links also mentioned in the article –

National Safe Parents Coalition who advocates for evidence-based policies which put child safety and risks at the forefront of child custody decisions.

Kayden’s Law – requires an evidentiary hearing during child custody proceedings to vet allegations—new or old—of abuse. Though ACLU opposed it but it has now been included in the Federal Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act which President Joe Biden signed on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Respond Against Violence providing “The Strangulation Supplement,” a tool for first responders and investigators to better guide them in investigations and to help capture cases involving strangulation that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. These tools are available upon request to law enforcement, forensic nurses, and EMS, as well as tools for pediatric cases and bathtub fatality cases.

Adding More Misery To The Suffering

Daisy Hohman’s 3 children spent 20 months in foster care.
When she was reunited with her children,
she received a bill of nearly $20,000 for her children’s foster care.

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.

A Christmas To Remember

Angela Turbeville hugs one of the six children, all siblings,
that she and her husband Elliott adopted Monday in Columbus Georgia

Sharing a story from Georgia Public Broadcasting. It is not perfect (having their original parents able to care for and raise them) but it is the best possible outcome for these siblings, allowing them to grow up together with each other.

Her wish list for Christmas includes items typical of a 10-year-old girl, such as a cooking set and fake nails. But at the bottom, in larger letters, is a request:

Get adopted.

That wish not only came true for the girl Monday, but Angela and Elliott Turbeville of Columbus also adopted five of her brothers — all in a joyful surprise. The Turbevilles surprised the children on December 20th with the news they would be going to court that afternoon to finalize the adoption. The Turbevilles creatively broke the news to the six children, ages 7-14, at their Green Island Hills home this week, before the two-year effort to go from foster to adoptive parents culminated in a courtroom.

When they awoke Monday morning, the kids got ready for school like usual. Outside, relatives started arriving for the surprise that would keep the children from going to school that day. Isabella, one of the Turbeville’s biological children and a Columbus State University student, brought 120 donuts. Elliott emerged from the garage to greet her. Then he took out his phone and started recording the scene as Isabella walked to the front door.

When one of the children opened the door, the others followed and saw on the front lawn a sign the Turbevilles had arranged to be put up overnight.

IT’S ADOPTION DAY

Wide-eyed and mouths agape, the kids soaked in the significance. One of them asked, “We’re adopted?” Angela answered, “Today, we’re going to court to be adopted.” The children shouted, “Yaaaaaaaaay!” After the bevy of family hugs, the 13-year-old boy sasid, “Coming right before Christmas, this is like the perfect time. … I’m just amazed and excited because we’ve been waiting for this a long time.”

Being adopted, instead of fostered, strengthens the sense of security the children feel. We’ve been through a lot of stuff that shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “Our parents should have taken care of us. But now, we have these parents that actually take care of us and feed us every day.” He smiled and continued, “They put me in my place when I’m in trouble.” Then he paused and added, “They just do everything right.” He noted the frustration the siblings shared when they were split in different foster homes and the gratitude they have for the Turbevilles to adopt them all together. “This is really rare,” he said. “They took this chance getting all of us. I thank them — and I thank God — for this.”

Seeing the children revel in the surprise, Angela said, “I’m just happy the day is finally here and that everybody will have the same last name.” Angela reflected on the legal hurdles they had to leap over to reach this moment, and emphasized that they still are working to adopt the seventh sibling. “I feel like I’m almost at the end of a marathon,” she said. Elliott said he was holding back his emotions until the adoption would be finalized later that day. “I’m just happy to see how surprised they were and how happy they are,” he said.

The family rode downtown in a chauffeured party bus for the adoption hearing in a 10th-floor courtroom at the Government Center, with Superior Court Judge Maureen Gottfried presiding. About two dozen relatives and friends were in the gallery.

“This is just a really, really, happy, happy day,” Gottfried told them. “I’m so glad that all of y’all are here to celebrate because this is really a celebration of a bad situation turning great.” About 10 minutes later, after Tom Tebeau, the Turbevilles’ lawyer, presented his clients and their case to the court, Gottfried approved the adoption. “These kids,” Gottfried said, “y’all are getting what you deserve as children, to be able to be raised in a happy house and taken care of, loving each other, loving your parents and just having everything be great. So I’m very thrilled to be able to sign off on all these.”

Angela and Elliott are relieved the legal process delivered the result they sought. “It’s a dream come true to be able to adopt children,” Angela said. “I hate it that they were in foster care, but at least we get to give them a good life. … They’re safe, and they’re happy, and we’re their parents.”

The back story – Angela is a former elementary school teacher and tutor. Elliott is an associate director at Pratt & Whitney. Both are in their 40s. After raising three biological children, their bodies wouldn’t allow them to have more kids, but their hearts and minds yearned for them. They considered other options, such as in vitro fertilization, but fostering and eventually adoption better fit their mindset. They became certified ​foster parents in 2019.

“There’s just thousands of kids in that need,” Elliott said. “So we figured, instead of going through all of that with her body and trying to make more of our own, why not just help kids already out there and need help?” That October, they received a call from Hope Foster Care, the child placing agency of the Methodist Home for Children & Youth: Would they foster four siblings? They figured they had raised three children, so this would be just one more. Then Angela was noticed one of the boys has the same birthdate of Elliott’s deceased mother. It was like a sign to her that this was the right thing to do. Elliott said, “She likes those coincidences.” I am like that too – my mom called these Godincidences.

That week, they learned the four children had three siblings in a foster home 2-3 hours away. After a period of Saturday visits over the next few months, Hope Foster Care asked whether the Turbevilles would take in the other three siblings as well. They agreed, but Angela asked for 30 days to get the house ready. That meant rearranging rooms and buying bunkbeds. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic started in spring 2020 and the Turbervilles hunkered down in their house with their seven foster children. “Luckily, I was a schoolteacher, so I did homeschool,” Angela said.

That gave Angela time to help the children who were below grade level catch up. “The oldest boy is now almost at grade level (eighth grade) in most subjects,” he said. “He came to me on a kindergarten/first-grade reading level 2½ years ago.” Now, all the children in school are on the honor roll. “They’re smart,” Angela said. “They understand where they came from. They understand where they are. … Their mom was a foster child, so we’re trying to break that cycle. My goal is to get them educated, keep them out of jail and be productive citizens.”

When the seventh-grade boy came home last month with a gift card for having the highest math test score in his grade, he told Angela he wanted to use it for the family to buy groceries for Thanksgiving. “That was a big deal for him,” she said.

The Turbevilles gained the children’s trust by striking the fine balance between providing them a structured yet compassionate home, where promises are kept, Elliott said. “A lot of it is routine and being open and honest and setting clear expectations and just making them feel safe,” he said. “… They came from an environment that they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.”

The children had been asking the Turbevilles for two years to adopt them, Angela said. This past spring, the Turbevilles learned the juvenile court in Floyd County had terminated the parental rights of the biological mother and fathers for the six oldest siblings, allowing them to start the adoption process. In addition to taking on a new last name, some of the children also chose to change their first name or middle name to something connected to the Turbeville family.

“It’s just confirmation that we’ve doing the right thing for these kids,” Elliott said. “… Every kid deserves a chance. … There’s just so much angst and bad stuff out there. If we can carve out a little area and make them better, make us better as a result and let them go out and make the world a better place as well, I know that sounds kind of cheeky, but it’s just the general idea of doing something good instead of just sitting back and watching all the bad happen.”

The timing of the adoption process culminating five days before Christmas is a coincidence, the Turbevilles said — but a delightful one. “It’s a Christmas to remember,” Elliott said.

Their caseworker, Caytlin Merritt of Hope Foster Care, called this case remarkable. She praised the Turbevilles for their patience with the children and for being fierce advocates when it comes to “going above and beyond” to fulfill their needs. “Not only have they welcomed these kids into their home and love them, but now they’re opening their hearts to them forever. That’s a huge commitment and sacrifice on their part, and they have just been all-in from day one. … It’s just a joy and a pleasure to have been a witness to that and support them.”

Beyond the number of children the Turbevilles adopted, what makes their case even more special, Merritt said, is their willingness to take in older children and keep siblings together. “There are not many foster homes currently able to take more than two children at a time and even fewer that are willing to take in teens,” Merritt said. “This means that siblings are often separated and may be placed in different counties, sometimes hours from each other. We want to do everything we can to keep teens in foster families, not group homes, and to keep sibling groups together.​”