Monday, August 11, 2014

Foster Child - Adoption of Foster Kid Is Sometimes the Best Move

A primary aim of foster care is to get children out of the system as soon as possible, ideally back to their parent(s). Barring this, agencies look to have foster youth placed with relatives or non-related adults. Adoption is another option available for foster children. As much as we are an advocate for relative placement, there are times when adoption is a better outcome for a foster child.

For 90% of the foster kids who age out (are forced out) of foster care, they will stop their education, become homeless, turn to drugs, become a victim of sex trafficking or end up in prison, usually within just two years. It’s a horrific future. Any alternative that can keep a child from aging out alone is desirable.

We handled a case involving a foster teen who was in the system along with her baby. She had no relatives in the U.S. so adoption was seen as the best solution. Often in cases where a child is up for adoption, state laws exist that mandate that agencies do their utmost to locate and notify a child's biological parents. They were known to be living in two completely separate parts of Mexico, the equivalent of Los Angeles and New York.

Michael Nash, the presiding judge of Juvenile Court, Los Angeles

This foster child case is one where the judge was clearly a positive force on behalf of the foster child. The judge had almost monthly court dates and insisted on having updates placing periodic but consistent pressure on the case worker.

We understand that social workers handling foster children cases are overworked. However, that does not excuse poor or no follow up. This case dragged on for months in large part because of delayed or no response to our inquiries. Only when a court date was pending would we get a flurry of communication from the case worker. It was definitely an example of how the courts can push a case in a positive direction.

We located both biological parents. Due to issues of confidentiality, there is much about the case that we cannot share. We can say that one of the parents was in a very remote part of Mexico with no telephone or easy form of contact. It's doubtful given the situation that the agency was ever able to maintain much contact with the parent. Communication is critical because once relatives are notified and have indicated they want to be part of a foster kid's life, foster care agencies vet the family members.

Since the teen was already placed with a very caring foster couple who was willing to take in both the girl and her baby, the courts decided on adoption.

This case highlights that judges can make a positive impact on a foster child's life. Judges can provide a balance of power with social services and any Guardian Ad Litem or CASA volunteer working on behalf of a foster youth. Without the judge having taken such an active role in the case and prodding the social worker, there is ample evidence that the teen may have aged out due to inactivity.

We have to point out that all three sides involved with foster youth have come to us for help. Although we work most often with Child Protective Services, we have handled cases involving the 9th Circuit Court and are doing more cases directly with CASA.

In a perfect world, parents love, protect and support their children unconditionally. But we don't live in a perfect world. There are times that despite biology, some parents are uncaring, irresponsible and unloving. In the worst of circumstances, parents are abusive and cruel, a physical danger to the lives of their children, resulting in their kids being in foster care in the first place.

Foster children are served best when all parties: case workers, CASA volunteers and judges work together to provide the best outcome possible. Sometimes adoption is best for a child.


Richard Villasana

Richard Villasana
Find Families In Mexico

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  1. Great to see that Judge Nash is working to be part of the solution. Kids need a supportive home, whether with biological family or with adoption.

    1. You are so right. We've worked abuse and kidnappings cases. We've run into parents who had no feelings or desire for their child. The goal for foster care is to put a child in a home with supportive, loving adults no matter who they are.

  2. Judge Nash is definitely leading the charge to help foster children in California. His court is the only one out of 58 in the state that allows any openness about foster children proceedings. There has been a lot said about protecting the privacy of foster kids, but many experts and past leaders have said that any system that is closed creates an environment for abuse and corruption. There needs to be more oversight and transparency with the foster care system.