Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Act of a Political Nature

GPop and I met with our social worker at the Populous County Family Services office a week or so ago. Every so often, the case loads change, and we get a new worker. This new one, whom I shall call "Pam" is the real-life version of the Dr. Krunklehorn character from Meet the Robinsons. The term "spaz" comes to mind.

In any case, we found out that there are a number of red tape barriers that stand in the way of kids getting adopted. We knew that there were, but Pam described them in sharp relief. It's really amazing that kids get adopted at all.

Our state's adoption rules are such that counties have a great deal of autonomy with regard to how social workers interact with each other and the state. That being said, the state did impose a statewide computer system to "streamline" the process of getting information about prospective parents matched up with records of kids who are waiting for families. Evidently, this software is called SACWIS. SACWIS is provided by the federal government, and it is used by a number of states. After our conversation, I agree that this software is a SAC of something, but probably not a SAC of WIS.

Of course, it's easy for an outsider to point to flaws in the system, and it's always harder to fix them once you are part of that system. This is especially true in complex systems that have regulatory constraints, and child welfare rightly has a number of regulatory constraints. However, nothing will ever get fixed unless someone recognizes the need to fix it.

In no particular order...

  • Social workers in other counties are not obligated to respond to inquiries.
  • Da Rules require that hearings be held to determine placement of a child. So, even if it is known that the child will be adopted by foster parents, the social worker must collect information on interested families and NOT TELL THEM that there's not a snowball's chance in heck that they will be picked for placement.
  • SACWIS's role restrictions do not permit a social worker to see information on a child who is not in the SW's case load.
  • SWs can not see family profiles for families that are not assigned to them. Even if the family's SW sends a profile to the child's SW.
  • The "e-mail a family profile to another SW" function does not work. It is supposed to work, but it is broken. The Populous County IT department can't fix this, because it's a state system. I suspect that the state will claim that they can't fix it, either, because SACWIS is provided by the federal government. I suspect also that the federal IT guys can't fix it, because it's a configuration issue, not a design problem.
  • In order to gain access to the national site, one must have an approved homestudy, which includes a confidentiality agreement. Some regulations across states appear to be governed by something akin to "full faith and credit", but some states won't put any relevant information about the child's situation on the site and won't discuss the situation until prospective parents sign that state's confidentiality agreement.
On to last night...

GPop and I sat down and browsed through the records on the web site. We evaluated the brief synopses, which were usually about one or two paragraphs loaded with code words. You know how real estate listings have code words like "cozy" (a.k.a. "cramped") and "charming" (a.k.a. "decrepit with a new paint job")? Adoption listings follow similar protocols. "Delightful" means "a handful," and "a family who will help him develop his skills" means "child with bizarre interpersonal habits." These are generally wonderful kids with resolvable issues, but the write-ups try to straddle the line between advertising and honesty.

We selected ten kids for this round that met our criteria. I created a spreadsheet with the children's names, case numbers, and social worker contact information to make it easier on Pam. She has to initiate contact with the other social workers; we're not supposed to. One more roll of red tape.

CNN is running a miniseries of reports on how LQTBG(etc.) people form families. One episode was the recent Gary and Tony Have a Baby. While I get very tired of being a political football and occasionally have the desire to tell critics to STFU and LMTFA, I acknowledge that not everyone is as enlightened as I'd like. So, to that end, GPop and I have yet another hurdle beyond the red tape.

When we look at the child's write-up, we need to be aware of what agency currently is in charge of the child. If the agency has some name that sounds Latin or Greek, I'll look it up on the web. Like as not, it is a faith-based organization with an unwritten, but very apparent, policy of refusing to deal with QBTLG(etc.) couples or singles. Sometimes, the policy is even explicit.

It's kind of sad, given that we have a very positive home and a good record of parenting thus far, that these organizations will dismiss us out of hand. It's also kind of sad that, even though there are plenty of religious organizations that don't have such policies of discrimination, the high profile of those that do makes it difficult for us not to put them all in the same bucket. We may have missed some opportunities, but it turns out that one of our criteria was "secular agency."

And, just to show that I've thought this through a little more than simply trashing the faithful, we also need to be aware of certain states and counties that have political environments that may be less than conducive to our goals. Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas are right out.

I sent the spreadsheet off last night. Pam responded this morning that she would send our paperwork out ASAP. When we chatted with her, we suggested that the cover page of her communications should include something to the effect of, "Please contact me if this family will NOT be considered as a potential match." We're hoping that this will increase the response rate somewhat, but I'm not holding my breath.

More to follow as events unfold.


hwqe said...

This comment makes me sad and angry:

"It's kind of sad, given that we have a very positive home and a good record of parenting thus far, that these organizations will dismiss us out of hand"

knowing how positive and loving that your family is. In the end it should be about placing the children, not a refusal of couples based on something that has zero impact to the child.

Jen said...

What hwqe said. It should be about the best couple for the child. Too many children are growing up while wonderful parents like you and Gpop get the runaround. Talk about red tape.