As thousands of displaced children remain in foster care services throughout California, many families pursue adoption to help provide them a place to call home.
In an effort to draw attention to the benefits of adoption, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors has deemed November as "Adoption Awareness Month."
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, approximately 60,000 children under the age of 18 were reported in foster care in 2010. In most cases, these children were removed from their birth parents as county child welfare departments, alongside juvenile dependency courts, found that these children were not in safe living conditions.
Unfortunately, many children who are reported for maltreatment do not enter the foster care system, as many do not meet the legal definition of maltreatment. In 2008-09, the institute found that less than one percent of children in California had a report of abuse or neglect sufficient enough to meet the legal requirements, of which only about a third successfully entered foster care services.
In Stanislaus County, receiving homes are utilized as temporary shelters for children who have been reported as abused or neglected. Open 24 hours a day, the receiving homes provide a safe environment for displaced children for no longer than 30 days until suitable relatives are located or the children are placed with foster families.
The county also utilizes regular and specialized foster care homes, where trained foster parents help nurture displaced victims. According to the Stanislaus County Community Services Agency, the Specialized Foster Care homes are county-licensed in four levels, depending on the amount of care that is required for the children. Children who may be placed in specialized foster care homes include newborns that are severely affected by a mother's drug use, critically emotionally disturbed children, and physically or developmentally delayed children.
Aside from finding displaced children safe temporary living situations, the Stanislaus County CSA also assists families seeking to adopt.
With hundreds of infants, toddlers, young children and teenagers in need of a permanent home, the Stanislaus County CSA says that many of the children needing homes are in sibling groups that consist of children of different ages. Although the agency hopes to find homes that will consider taking sibling groups of sometimes up to four or five children, single child adoptions are also highly encouraged.
The process of adoption is not a simple or short one, however, as individuals seeking to adopt must first undergo a home study by an adoptions social worker. According to the Stanislaus County CSA, a set format is used by the agency while conducting a home study to ensure that the State's regulations are met. Licensing classes are also required as part of the adoption process, where individuals are provided with an adoption packet that must be completed and turned in with their social worker within three months of the last class. As part of the process, the social worker will interview each person or child currently living in the home individually, as well as the family in a group interview. After conducting the home study, the social worker will create a report about the family and their personal lives - including any criminal history, financial issues, childhood problems, previous counseling or psychological history, physical health and personal references - and submit their findings alongside the adoption packet to the county adoption supervisor for review.
While the thought of having a social worker conduct a home study may create a great amount of anxiety for an individual looking to adopt, the Stanislaus County CSA reminds interested individuals that they are not looking for the "perfect couple" or "perfect home" they are simply visiting to ensure that children are placed in a safe, healthy home while helping interested families decide if adoption is really for them.
Although 65 percent of children under the age of 18 in foster care return to their birth parents, this is not always a safe option for all. According to the PPIC, in 2008-09, only 22 percent of children who left foster care were adopted, 9 percent left to live permanently with a legal guardian, and some never found homes. In the same year, the PPIC reported that nearly 4,500 foster youth age 18 and older "aged out" of eligibility for foster care, representing 12 percent of all children and youth who left foster care - a number that has grown significantly over the past 10 years.
For families who have considered or are currently contemplating adopting, the Stanislaus County CSA holds monthly two-hour orientations for potential foster or adoptive parents. Orientations are held at the Community Services Agency Building, located at 251 E. Hackett Road in Ceres. Due to the sensitive nature of some materials discussed, the CSA asks that interested individuals do not bring children to the orientations.
Detailed information about the monthly orientations, or about the Stanislaus County Community Services Agency, can be provided by calling 558-2366.