I thought I’d give you a tiny little glimpse of what being a child’s adoption/social worker is like, and how difficult the placement of a child into a home can be. This exercise is based on one that an agency I interned at had their prospective adoptive parents do on their first day of pre-adoptive parent training – at any given day, when I worked for the County, I might have up to 4-5 home studies for kid(s) on my caseload. So, the differences and similarities between types of families inquiring after children represented here are fairly realistic.
Keep in mind that as the social worker, you would be making this decision on top of a caseload of anywhere from probably 25-40 other kids (depending on the county/state you work for) and in addition to making all of the legal decisions about this child (foster care, school, and medical issues).
Finally, keep in mind that "matching" is based on how well the prospective parents match the needs of the child, not how much the child matches the needs of the parents. One of the questions I always have is how much workers/decision makers in foreign countries really consider the needs of the child when matching to parents – or, how to make this decision when the children are young and/or the workers don’t really have the time to get to know the child enough to make a match based on their needs.
Here is your child: "Jane"
- 10 year old child, 1/2 African American, 1/4 Native American, 1/4 White. The Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply.
- Currently lives in a foster home in the suburbs, but the family is not going to adopt
- Likes her school a lot – public school in a suburb, about 10% diversity
- She has two younger siblings ages 2 & 3 who were adopted by a family in the city. Jane wants to keep in touch with her siblings. Right now she sees them once a month and at holidays.
- She attends a Baptist church that is majority African American and sings in the choir.
- Jane would like to take music lessons and dance.
- Jane has an IEP for dyslexia but does fairly well in school overall with additional assistance
- She has a college-aged mentor, "Tammy," who is African American, who has spent a lot of time with her for the past two years. Tammy often takes Jane to her hair salon and they have their hair done together.
In Minnesota, you make a match based on the following factors:
1. the child’s current functioning and behaviors;
2. the medical, educational and developmental needs of the child;
3. the child’s history and past experience;
4. the child’s religious and cultural needs;
5. the child’s connection with a community, school and church (or synagogue, mosque,
temple or other religious community);
6. the child’s interests and talents;
7. the child’s relationship to current caretakers, parents, siblings and relatives; and
8. the reasonable preference of the child, if the court, or other child placing agency in the case of a voluntary placement, deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preferences
Here are the four families you have received home studies for. Which one would you choose for Jane? And why? Would you have specific reservations and/or recommendations regarding these families? What kinds of biases do you have?
The Anderson Family
- Two parent home, both parents work
- Mom works in the school Jane would attend
- African American
- Older couple (50’s)
- Middle class
- No other children, couple’s 5 children grown
- Large extended family with 8 cousins all close to Jane’s age
- Two sets of grandparents, all in the same area of town
- Lives in the city, a few blocks from Jane’s siblings
- Neighborhood and school very diverse – 50% African Americans
- Attends Pentecostal church with children’s choir
The Brown Family
- Two parent home, dad works, mom is at-home parent
- Couple in their 40’s
- One child, a boy who is 5 years old
- No extended relatives in the area
- Plans to home school Jane
- Working class
- Lives in a small town, 3 hours from the city
- Town has no diversity – Jane would be the only African American in town
- Family attends Catholic church
- Mom is accomplished musician, can give lessons
The Connor Family
- Single parent, working mom
- Native American and white
- 33 years old
- Lives in the suburbs Jane currently resides (20 minutes from the city)
- Very involved in Native community
- Does not attend church but is very active in traditional Native American spiritual community
- Has 13-year old daughter who is 1/2 African American and 1/4 Native American and 1/4 white
- Family wants to have Jane attend private school with no diversity other than her 13-year old daughter (switch from suburban public school with about 10% diversity)
- Large extended family
The Davis Family
- Two parent home
- Wife is 29, husband is 35
- Upper-middle class – both attorneys
- Both working parents, work long hours
- Lives in a different suburb about 30 minutes from the city
- Attends Baptist church, but it is white congregation not black
- No children
- Does not have any connection or friends with African American or Native American communities
- Could offer private music and dance lessons for Jane
Things to consider
Single vs. two-parent home
Other siblings in the home and birth order issues
Visits with birth siblings
Schooling and educational needs
Interests (singing, music, dance) of the child
Location and moving – transitions on the child
Okay readers, go for it. Which family would you choose and why? What recommendations, if any, would you make to your family of choice?