Although a formal adoption placement can not be made until after the child is legally free for adoption; efforts can and should be made to place a child and siblings in their forever home as soon as possible. Many studies and our own statistics show, if we wait until a parent’s rights are terminated to begin recruiting – we delay permanency for the child by years. Children need stability and with that stability comes functionality. Without expedited permanency children will struggle to establish bonds for the rest of their lives. Every placement decision must take into account the likelihood of adoption becoming a concurrent or primary goal.
Ideally the child is placed with a caregiver who will be willing to care for that child and all of the siblings forever. A way to ensure there is a positive transition is to include the caregiver (whether relative or foster parent) and the parents in the team planning process from the start. Many times if the parent has established a bond with the caregiver; and the parent is not able to get through the case plan successfully; that parent may sign surrenders to the child or children. This expedites the process and leads to quicker permanency for the child.
It is extremely important to place siblings together, and when this is not immediately possible on-going diligence to place siblings together is needed. The same applies to seeking out relative and non-relative caregivers for the children. A relative finder request should be initiated immediately and updated at least every 6 months. Every relative listed is a possible placement, and when they are not suitable or willing to care for the children, often those relatives and friends can provide 10-15 more leads for a possible permanent home for the children.
It is the case manager’s, placement specialist’s, parent’s, and SCC staff’s responsibility to use diligence in a match process early in the case and to work on targeted recruitment for harder to place children.
When looking at ‘matching’ children with a family, it is important to remember that “many biological children do not share the interests and talents of their parents, and biological siblings, although often sharing some common interests and talents, have talents and interests of their own. “…Professionals see the prospective parent’s commitment to parenting” as the critical factor in successful long term placements or adoptions. (adoptuskids.org)
“In most cases, because children enter foster care on an emergency basis, they are placed with foster families on the basis of availability. Although foster parents may specify the characteristics of children whom they would like to foster and they can decline to accept placement of children who do not meet these criteria, many foster parents open their homes to children whom they did not originally envision fostering. And, many of these foster families go on to adopt children who would not have been a “match” based on the foster parents’ initial thoughts about the children who would be a “good fit” with their families.” (adoptuskids.org)
Selecting a family for a child is a thoughtful decision-making process, requiring insight, foresight and team cooperation by professionals and family members right from the start. Whenever possible including the prospective caregivers and/or adoptive families and the children themselves in placement decision making will aide in ensuring placement stability.