Friday, December 22, 2006

Forever family is good; greed-motivated adoptions are bad

Adoption system changes announced -
Officials say federal bonuses not a factor
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, June 2, 2006, pg. B1.

Kentucky child protection officials announced yesterday that they had "implemented several changes that address possible procedural faults" in the state adoption system, but denied that federal funding was motivating adoption decisions.

Earlier this week, legislators said they were joining the state inspector general's office and child advocacy groups in investigating complaints that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is inappropriately trying to remove children from their biological families to increase state adoptions from foster care.

Some front-line social workers have complained that their supervisors make decisions based on favoritism toward prospective adoptive families and don't give biological parents enough help to preserve their families.

Among the concerns is that Kentucky is under pressure from the federal government to increase adoptions and, in the process, stands to receive federal bonus money.

The cabinet has a number of long-term plans in the works, said Tom Emberton Jr., the commissioner for the Department for Community Based Services, but he said that he was prepared to discuss only one of them publicly.

That is a new internal Web-based service called Voluntary Case Review that allows social workers to confidentially report to top Cabinet officials whether they see problems with "an adoption custody decision."

After concerns of possible wrongdoing were brought to light, the Department for Community Based Services immediately began to look for more ways for staff to report improprieties, Cabinet officials said in a release yesterday.

"Because we value our staff's judgment, we want them to have confidence to speak up when they have strong concerns about a child's well-being," said Emberton. "If they are uncomfortable talking directly to a supervisor, they will be protected by a new confidential reporting process."

Emberton said the other changes -- to be unveiled at a later date -- would bring consistency and efficiency to the state's entire social service system.

He said that, in general, the current policies that guide the Cabinet in finding safe, permanent homes for more than 6,000 foster children are sound and that most employees follow them.

Emberton yesterday denied allegations that state adoption decisions are motivated by federal funding.

Kentucky does receive federal money when children are adopted, he said, but it doesn't equal the funds budgeted for services. The state may receive from $4,000 to $6,000 for each adopted child, depending on the child's needs. Kentucky received a little more than $1 million in incentives in the 2005 federal fiscal year.

"That money is already accounted for when we receive it," Emberton said in the release. "Our foster and adoptive parents receive subsidies, and we spend for statewide recruitment efforts since we are always in need of loving caregivers in these children's home communities."

In state fiscal year 2005, the Cabinet paid families more than $37 million in adoption subsidies, which typically range from $600 to $1,200 a month for each child.

Regardless of the Cabinet's recommendations, Emberton said, a judge must approve the Cabinet's request to remove a child from its home or to terminate a parent's custody rights.

Emberton acknowledged that the cabinet is trying to increase the number of state adoptions each year.

"With the number of children coming into our care increasing annually because of issues like physical and substance abuse, we do set our goals higher every year," he said. "Children can regain a sense of security when they know they are with their 'forever family.'"


Post a Comment

<< Home