Friday, December 22, 2006

Grandmother not allowed to foster her own nephew, although she is a licensed foster parent

Not family-friendly -
State too quick to separate child from relatives
Goins, Matt. Lexington Herald-Leader, Oct. 3, 2006, pg. A8.

Who wouldn't want to grow up in a big extended family such as Dae'Kuavion Perry's? Four generations of caring relatives are eager to be part of the toddler's life.

But the state of Kentucky has a better idea.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services says Dae'Kuavion, 2, should be adopted by a non-family member.

The push to terminate his father's parental rights and the state's refusal to let his aunt provide his foster care are part of a disturbing pattern in Kentucky and an example of what can go wrong when quotas replace common sense in adoption policy.

Kentucky, like other states, is under pressure from the federal government to place more children in adoption. Kentucky has set a goal of increasing adoptions every year.

In such an atmosphere, decisions are made to put a baby on track to adoption, and cabinet officials refuse to deviate from it, says child advocate David Richart, director of the National Institute on Children, Youth & Families in Louisville, which has reported an increase in "quick-trigger" adoptions in Kentucky.

Dae'Kuavion's case was complicated by his mother's death before his father, Tim Mabson, had established paternity. The baby also suffered from asthma, food allergies and a failure to gain weight.

Before the baby's birth, Mabson, 28, was charged with marijuana possession and assault but has been clean for four years, according to court records and drug tests.

He sought custody of the baby after the mother's death and fought to establish that he was the father. That says something at a time when government is trying to compel other men to take responsibility for their children.

It's also noteworthy that the same social services system that approved Mabson's sister to adopt two foster children refused to let her foster her own nephew.

No doubt the child has formed a close attachment to his foster mother, a therapist at a state mental health agency that often does business with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. State case workers apparently decided she could better deal with his medical problems.

So government is wielding its power to cut the family ties that bind.

Adoption numbers trump older state policies and a federal law that say children should be placed with family when possible.

States should be working harder to get foster children into permanent homes, especially older kids who are at risk of turning 18 with no parent in their lives.

But Dae'Kuavion's story, as reported by Valarie Honeycutt Spears, should be required reading for the Cabinet task force and lawmakers who are investigating whether Kentucky's adoption push has gone too far.

The state refuses to allow Julia Johnson, backed by five generations of her family, to be foster mother to her nephew, Dae'Kuavion Perry.


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