Thursday, October 27, 2011

Concurrent Planning = Emotional Entrapment

Most foster parents are aware of ASFA. The Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act was signed into law in 1997 and changed foster care in many ways- one was shortening the time a child can be in care. No longer could kids float around the system for years and years while their parents continue to make zero progress towards getting them back. Now, Termination of parental rights and an alternate permanency goal can be pursued after a child has been in care for 15 of the past 22 months.

Then NY enacted their own ASFA in 1999 which tightened up how we do things in these parts. One of the biggest was how we plan for permanency when a child enters care. ASFA encourages concurrent planning. In concurrent planning there are 2 "tracks" towards permanency moving along at the same time. The first is always "return to parent", and the other can be adoption, legal guardianship, permanent placement with a fit and willing relative, or another planned and permanent living arrangement which could include independent living, group home, or nursing home. This concurrent planning helps keep our time frame for achieving permanency for our kids and prevents incidents of children lingering in care after their parent's rights have been terminated.

All of our kids have had concurrent plans of "Return to Parent" and "Adoption" with us listed as that adoptive resource. We want to adopt, and we've been sincere about being ready to adopt any and all of our kids. BUT we are well-trained foster parents and we know that reunification is the goal of foster care, and we've been as supportive of that as possible. I, specifically, have done ridiculous things to aid reunification including but not limited to: driving a Dad to his substance abuse treatment program, facilitating a visit on Christmas Day when no county workers were willing, and most recently (yesterday) booking a flight for relative resource to come here for court. She paid for the ticket, but I went online, found the best price, secured her seat, printed the confirmation and mailed it to her. What?! I know!!!

I don't want to keep a child who could have gone home if his family had gotten more support. I want to adopt the child who truly needed a family. When the child I adopt is an adult, I'm going to be able to say, "I tried everything to keep you with your family. I fought for your parents so they could fight for you. You were always loved, and we adopted you because it was honestly the best thing.". I do all these crazy things with our Bios because (1) I'm a lunatic and (2) I want all of my actions and motives to be pure and selfless. Sometimes I fall short of that "pure and selfless" part, but I'm working on it and getting better with each case.

With our 1st placement, my language was much different. People would ask, "Are you going to adopt him?" and I'd say "Hopefully". Then our 2nd case it was, "Maybe, but it changes so much I don't know.". Today, Baby 4's teacher asked me about adoption and I said, "Oh. We don't even think about adoption for 2yrs.". Keeping my head in the fostering game and not letting it slip into pre-adoption territory is healthier and easier, and all around appropriate for the situation.  It's not that I don't daydream of adoption and name changes and Gotcha Day celebrations, but I don't linger much.

And right as I'm becoming the balanced person I've always hoped to be, I get this email from 4's caseworker:

Another question, I wanted to ask you now rather in front of [baby 4], if we decide to terminate father and mother’s rights, are your willing to adopt [baby 4]?
Let me know. Thanks J

Just in case fostering alone wasn't emotionally consuming enough- concurrent planning has to slap me in the face with what ifs, maybes, and selfish high hopes. Adoption is still just a back up plan, but it's in the forefront of my mind. We're going to add concurrent planning to the list of foster care related topics that can give me a migraine and/or cause me to eat large amounts of chocolate.

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