Child’s welfare our ultimate goal

An adoptions specialist for the California Department of Social Services, adoption branch

Those of us at Adoption Services, State of California are grateful to your paper for featuring adoption during November, which is National Adoption Awareness Month ["Lost and Found,” Nov 15]. A few of the issues covered were not truly reflective of our department’s views.

Almost no mothers delivering babies who are positive-tox at birth are arrested. Mostly, these babies are taken into protective custody by Butte County Children’s Services Division (CSD) and are placed into specially trained foster homes like the two featured families in Laura Smith’s article. The parents are then court-ordered into reunification services to address the problems that led to the babies’ being at risk in the first place. The mothers involved in Touchstone are not victims of “the system.” They are victims of drug and alcohol addiction.

In California there are three types of permanent plans for children if their parents fail reunification services. They are adoption, guardianship and long-term foster care. “Group homes” is not a permanent plan. Residential-care, or group, homes are homes for children with behavioral and/or emotional problems. Federal and state laws support adoption as the most permanent plan for a child who cannot be safely returned home. However, it is not always the goal. Some children are very attached to their parents, and breaking that bond may be emotionally detrimental to them. Other children may be living with relatives who want to care for them but are not able to adopt. While the goal of Adoption Services is the “best permanent plan” for children, adoption is not always the preferred goal.

Butte County CSD’s goal is reunification between the parents and their children, if that is possible. Adoption Services’ goal is “the best permanent plan” for the children when they cannot go home.

Concurrent-planning law, passed in 1997, has social workers from both agencies working on permanence from the very beginning of the case. Concurrent-planning laws are good for children but have called on Adoption Services and CSD to work more closely together and to do more early planning for each case. It could be said we are all hoping reunification will be possible, but we are making an early alternative plan in case the child cannot return to the parents.

Adoption Services, CSD and other helping professionals, as well as attorneys and judges, work together to resolve child abuse cases. Different professionals bring their own skills and perspectives to the cases. All children deserve loving, stable and permanent homes. Sometimes these homes are with their birth parents. Sometimes these homes are with relatives or foster parents. Sometimes adoptive parents begin a new chapter in an abused child’s life and provide him or her with a forever family. We always welcome people interested in exploring adoption as a positive means of adding to their family. Please call us at 895-6143.