§4 ch27: Permanency Through Adoption
27.4 Special Considerations in Adoption Planning
The following topics require special consideration when adoption becomes the permanent plan for a child.
27.4.1 Foster Parent Preference and First Consideration for Placement
According to Missouri Statute 453.070, RSMo (#7): “Any adult person or persons over the age of eighteen, who, as foster parent or parents, have cared for a foster child continuously for a period of nine months or more and bonding has occurred as evidenced by the positive emotional and physical interaction between the foster parent and child, may apply to such authorized agency for the placement of such child with them for the purpose of adoption if the child is eligible for adoption. The agency and court shall give preference and first consideration for adoptive placements to foster parents. However, the final determination of the propriety of the adoption of such foster child shall be within the sole discretion of the court.”
In addition, RSMo 210.566 states: “If a foster child becomes free for adoption and the foster parents desire to adopt the child, they shall inform the caseworker within sixty (60) days of the caseworker’s initial query. If they choose not to pursue adoption, foster parents shall make every effort to support and encourage the child’s placement in a permanent home, including but not limited to providing information on the history and care needs of the child and accommodating transitional visitation."
The Division implements this requirement when the child is legally available for adoption or when it appears very likely the child will be legally available for adoption by assessing the interest and capacity of the present family to adopt the child. Additionally, it is important to note that neither the Division nor the statute provides a guarantee that the present resource provider family will be approved or granted the right to adopt the child in their care. As in any adoption, only the juvenile court has the final authority to approve the adoption of a specific child by a specific family.
During the staffing process the worker/team making adoption plans for a child should consider the foster parents' capacity to meet the child’s long-term needs through adoption prior to considering other adoptive families.
In making the selection of an adoptive family, consideration must be given to all of the child's current and future needs. Since adoption is a lifetime commitment for both the family and the child, attention must be given to assessing the many issues involved in meeting the child's needs and the ability of a prospective adoptive family to meet those needs.
In assessing resource provider families who currently have the child in care, the Division will assess the following factors:
- The length of time the child has been in the family's care
- The attachment of the child to the family and the ability of the child to make new attachments
- The age of the child at placement with the specific family
- The child's medical, educational, emotional, social, cultural identity and the family's demonstration of meeting these needs as a predictor for successful parenting throughout the child's growth to adulthood
- The family's understanding of the purpose and meaning of the adoptive relationship
- The child's desire to be adopted by the specific family
- The child's acceptance as a member of the immediate family and understanding of the child's role in the extended family
- The child's assimilation into the family, including the family's ability to encourage and preserve the child's cultural identity and religious background
- Whether the child has siblings that will need placement with the child
- The need for continued contact (after adoption) with siblings, other relatives/kin and significant others
- The family's acceptance of legal risk
- The child's unique parenting needs
22.214.171.124 Informing the Current Resource Family of Adoption Privileges
- When adoption becomes the permanency goal, the worker shall inform the current resource family of:
- The nine month preference statute and placement selection policies
- The required completion of an adoptive family assessment
- The required filing of the adoption petition within 90 days of the Division's recommendation/approval for the family to adopt the child
- The Division's willingness and desire that they have full opportunity to express their interest in adoption and to provide assistance in reaching this decision
- The range of factors that are assessed in determining their capacity to parent the child
- The availability of an adoption subsidy to assist in meeting the immediate and long-term costs of the child's needs
- The child's right, after age 18 to file a request with the court granting the adoptee to obtain identifying information about the biological parents or adult biological siblings
- Their right, legal guardian's, and the child's right, at age 18, to secure non-identifying information regarding the biological parents and siblings via completion of CS-50
- The child's right to register with the Adoption Information Registry via CD-51a at age 18 if he/she wishes to indicate a desire to be contacted by the biological parents or adult biological siblings
The Family Support Team may serve as an Adoption Staffing if the only family being considered is the current placement providers. Use of a formal staffing team is still required if recommended by the Family Support Team or Regional Director.
If the resource provider elects to adopt the child, they will not be a member of the staffing team. When the resource parent chooses not to pursue adoption, they shall make every effort to support and encourage the child's placement in a permanent home, including but not limited to providing information on the history and care needs of the child, accommodating transitional visitation and participating in the Adoption Staffing as a mandatory team member.
Confirm the family's interest in adoption within seven (7) days of explaining the permanent plan. If the family is not interested or appropriate, seek another adoptive family to achieve permanency. If interested, refer the family for adoptive application and family assessment to adoption specialist.
Record any factors that resulted in the decision that the current resource family is appropriate as an adoptive parent within five (5) working days of decision.
- When adoption becomes the permanency goal, the worker shall inform the current resource family of:
27.4.2 Considerations in the Selection of an Adoptive Family
The Division's goal, in fulfilling its commitment to a child who is available for adoption, is to locate and place the child with a family that can best provide permanency for the child. This goal should be achieved within the shortest possible time from entry into out-of-home care and/or the decision that the child is available for adoption. Meeting the child's needs includes basic respect for his/her emotional, health, educational, and social needs, and integrating the cultural identity and religious background of the child. The Child's Summary for Adoption shall be completed for any child for whom active recruitment is required to locate a prospective adoptive family. Information may be gathered from the current foster/kinship/relative provider or other professional team members if needed. Families selected must demonstrate in various ways their ability to meet these needs and must have an approved adoptive family assessment.
The Division, in expressing its responsibility for protection of the child and expertise in the practice of child placement, must make a decision that a specific family will be most likely to best meet the needs of the child. Adoption is different in the sense that the child arrives as a member of the family in a different manner. Thus, placement selection must be a carefully considered decision. To aid in this, an Adoption Staffing Team is used. This process is mandatory for a child being placed with a new family; however it is an optional process for the selection of the current resource provider family as the adoptive parent, unless required by the Family Support Team or recommended by the Regional Director or designee, and then must be completed.
27.4.3 Sibling Preference/Consideration
The sibling relationship is unique and should be fostered in its own right (Youth Leadership Advisory Team, 2002). The sibling relationship in placement can serve as a source of safety, security and promote a sense of well-being and should be considered a priority when considering permanency through adoption. Siblings should be recruited for placement together unless a determination has been made that placement together is not in the best interest of the children.
When considering permanency through adoption for a sibling group it is important to consider the preservation of sibling relationships and bond and understand that siblings placed together can provide support and healing during a time of transition and change.
Role of the Family Support Team in Sibling Placements
The Family Support Team should continually review placements of siblings and determine whether sibling separation is in the best interest of the child. When making such determinations the Family Support Team should consider the age and developmental needs of each child, their attachment and emotional bond to one another and the effects separation will have on the siblings. Separations may result due to the following:
- A child has special needs for therapeutic services, which may not be available in the proposed sibling placement
- A child has inflicted physical, sexual, or emotional abuse on a sibling
- Court ordered separation
- Half-sibling placed with biological parent/relative
- Large group of siblings are placed with two relatives and contact can be maintained
When a Family Support Team determines that a sibling group cannot reside in the same household, the case may be referred for a sibling bonding assessment to assist the team in understanding the specific needs of the children and allow additional information to be considered before referring the case for a Sibling Separation Administrative Review. If a sibling bonding assessment is completed and recommends that the siblings should remain together every effort should be taken to recruit for an adoptive placement that will accommodate the sibling placement. If the bonding assessment reflects that the siblings may be separated for adoptive placement the case should be referred for a Sibling Separation Administrative Review in order to obtain approval to separate siblings and recruit for adoptive resources for the siblings separately.
Sibling Administrative Review
The Circuit Manager and appropriate regional staff will conduct a Sibling Separation Administrative Review when a Family Support Team has recommended separation of siblings for the purpose of adoption. The Administrative Review Team shall take into consideration the specific needs of each individual child and should review all pertinent information, including therapy reports, the sibling bonding assessment (if completed) and recommendations from the Family Support Team.
If the outcome of the Administrative Review is to deny separation of siblings, recommendations should be made by the Administrative Review Team regarding the placement of siblings together. The Children's Division should continue to recruit for the siblings as a group. Documentation of the Administrative Review should be placed in the Child's section of the record.
If the outcome of the Administrative Review is to approve the separation of siblings, the Children's Division may recruit for separate adoptive resources for the children. Documentation of the Administrative Review should be placed in the Child's section of the record.
27.4.4 Special Needs Children
Section 453, RSMo, defines a special needs child as any child in the custody of the Children's Division, Division of Youth Services, Department of Mental Health or a Missouri licensed child-placing agency and who meets one of the following conditions:
- Minority parentage
- Handicapping condition - mental, physical or emotional
- Member of a sibling group - two or more brothers and/or sisters placed in the same adoptive home
- Guarded prognosis - possible future problems related to the child's condition or status at the time of adoptive placement
- Is over five years of age, without any of the above characteristics
Children who meet the criteria for special needs may qualify for adoption subsidy.
27.4.5 Legal Risk Placements
Children in the custody of the Children’s Division, with a goal of adoption, yet not legally free for adoption, pose a legal risk to their potential adoptive parents. Circumstances which lead to a legal risk include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
- The plan is adoption, but parental rights for one or all of the parents have not been terminated.
- Parental rights have been terminated by the court of jurisdiction and parent(s) have appealed the decision to an appellate court.
- Plan for publication is in process but not yet accomplished.
- Parents have signed voluntary consents to adoption but the court has not legally terminated parental rights.
The family accepting the child(ren) as a legal risk placement must understand that the goal of adoption may not be obtained and/or the child(ren) may be returned to the home of the parents.
Whatever the circumstances, it is imperative the prospective adoptive parents be provided the Legal Risk Statement, CD-191, describing clearly the legal risk involved with the child, which would need to be resolved prior to the adoption becoming finalized. The prospective adoptive parents shall be required to sign and date the Legal Risk Statement, CD-191.
If parental rights have not been terminated, the prospective adoptive parents must be licensed as foster parents. Both the child and parents are eligible for foster care services.
27.4.6 Cross Cultural/Cross Racial Adoptive Placements
We know that our cultural diversity influences our view of the world as well as the world’s perception of who we are. We also know that some differences among people are easily seen while others are subtle. In order to ensure consistency in the child’s day-to-day life, to support the development of a positive self-image, increase feelings of security and reduce feelings of isolation, a child should be placed in a home that respects the child’s cultural identity and can best meet the individualized needs of the child.
In making the selection of an adoptive family, consideration must be given to all the child’s current and future needs. Since adoption is a lifetime commitment for both the family and the child, attention must be given to assessing the many issues involved in meeting the child’s needs and the ability of a prospective family to meet those needs. Once this match has occurred, the placement, if not with the present foster family, should be made as soon as possible. The child’s record must clearly document the staffings, administrative reviews and Children’s Service Worker’s efforts to find an appropriately matched adoptive home for the child as well as documentation as to the reasons a particular home was selected.
Public Law 104-188, Section 1808, 110 Stat. 1903-1904 states:
“(18) not later than January 1, 1997, provides that neither the State nor any other entity in the State that receives funds from the Federal Government and is involved in adoption or foster care placements may -
- “(A) deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the person, or of the child, involved; or
- “(B) delay or deny the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent, or the child, involved.”
Missouri Statute, Section 453.005.3 RSMo states:
The race or ethnicity of the adoptive child, the child's biological parents, or the prospective adoptive parents shall not be a consideration when determining the best interests of the child, the welfare of a child, the suitability and assessment of prospective adoptive parents, or the home of the prospective adoptive parents in adoptive placements.