FAQ's about the Washington/Oregon Kids for Washington Families Program
What kind of children are available?
There are an estimated 12,000 children in out of home placements in Washington. Many are legally free and others are in the process of termination or relinquishment of parental rights. Toddlers through teens are available. As you would expect, there are far more children toward the older end of the spectrum.
There are many toddlers and preschoolers, however, many of these are part of sibling groups. Any family wanting young children should be asked to consider siblings, as they may find their wait is shorter than with a single child of approximately the same age. Frequently these children have been exposed to prenatal drugs and/or alcohol. An estimated 85% of the children in care are there because of the substance abuse of the parents. This does not mean that all of these children were exposed in utero, only that their parents are dysfunctional and/or unavailable to parent as a result of substance abuse.
Many of the children available are 4 and older and are likely to be legally free, as workers have had time to process their cases. This means that the adoptions can be completed very quickly (6 months). There are children under 4 available but they are not likely to be legally free as they have not yet been in the system long enough. The risk with this type of placement varies from case to case.
What are common challenges with these children?
Many of the children have had an ADHD diagnosis. Some of these diagnoses may be well-founded in biological and neurological evidence; other children are labeled hyperactive with little expert input. Children who are in multiple placements with differing amounts of structure and expectations are, not surprisingly, often chaotic in their approach to their environment. Newer findings show that prolonged stress can actually affect the brain, as chemicals such as cortisol flood the nervous system, with resultant changes of behavior. Many children begin to do well in the stability of an adoptive home, particularly with experienced professional support.
Other issues one sees in the child studies include varying degrees of developmental delays, Reactive Attachment Disorder, FAS/FAE, sexual and/or physical abuse, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
This sounds like a scary list. It is a scary list. Only strong and preferably experienced families should seriously consider some of these children. However, and this is the BIGGEST however, there are hundreds of children who are not seriously damaged who can become fully functional family members.
What types of families will make successful placements difficult?
Families who are inflexible, have a poor sense of humor, have a myopic perspective, have difficulty separating their needs from that of their children, have a highly inflated view of themselves and/or their way of doing things, and are very resistant to suggestions by lay or professional observers make poor candidates for this program. They have unrealistic expectations of children's developmental abilities and need to be reinforced by the child's gratefulness, need, and affection.
What kinds of families are successful?
Families who are very relaxed, contented, warm, and flexible offer a good chance for these adoptees. They are mature and feel complete in themselves and their adult relationships. Successful families reach out to others for help, support, and lay and professional advice. Families who have raised other children or who have the capacity to raise their first child as if he were their second will also do well. They are able to accommodate the child's individual need for emotional space and not demand intimacy before the child is ready. They must be able to understand and accept that rage that may erupt in their direction should not be taken personally, but is a mark of the child's trust in venting his or her emotion toward a person they are trying desperately to love.
Mothers are a particular target, so dads or other significant people need to be especially sensitive and supportive while this phase is occurring.
What type of support is available to families?
The State of Washington provides many resources to adopting families. These include medical, dental (excluding orthodontia), and counseling. If the child is particularly challenging, funds for regular respite care may be accessed. Also, special training, educational opportunities, and other experiences deemed necessary for the child may be available. If the child is severely delayed or has serious medical problems, he or she may qualify for federal Social Security funds. Some of these children have funds containing thousands of dollars which can be used for a wide variety of needs, from fences to playground equipment to computer programs. These purchases must all be pre-approved and well-justified. (More about financial resources later).
How much does the Washington Kids for Washington Families cost families?
AAI charges $1,000 to complete a homestudy, foster license the family, do the post-placement reports and complete paperwork associated with Adoption Support and finalization. This $1,000 is reimbursed by the State upon finalization.
Does the family receive any financial help before finalization?
Yes. While the child is officially in foster care, the family will receive a Monthly Maintenance check based on the child's age. There are four levels and payment is based on the child's developmental and behavioral needs. There are other resources available, including Exceptional Costs which can pay for things like private counseling with appropriate providers who accept medical coupons. For Washington children the funds go through AAI to the families. Oregon's system is similar except the funds go directly to the families from the State of Oregon.
Is there any support after finalization?
Yes. About the time families are ready to finalize, the AAI office will prepare Adoption Support requests. Families typically will continue to receive funding for counseling and other special needs, just as before the adoption. They will also receive a monthly check which, by law, must be less than the one they received during the foster care stage. Typically the amounts are slightly less, so that a family receiving $400 before finalization might receive $375 afterward. Families are eligible for medical, dental, and counseling until the child is 18. Amounts and services may be re-evaluated at the family's request, so that a child who develops some unforeseen problem can be helped.
How does a family become foster licensed?
If families choose to work with AAI for the placement of a Washington child, an AAI counselor MUST license the home. We cannot place children with families who are currently licensed by the State or by some other private agency. The AAI counselor typically completes the foster licensing review at the same time as the homestudy process. There is a home checklist that the counselor must complete and the family must agree to fulfill all of the usual foster licensing requirements including taking the foster/adopt parenting classes, taking CPR/First and HIV/AIDS classes, completing a TB test, and other requirements outlined in the foster licensing materials.
What kind of time frame can a family expect for the various parts of the process?
In order for a homestudy to be approved, the family must be cleared through a criminal history background check from the State of Washington. This is currently taking about 4 to 6 weeks. Usually the counselor has the report completed before the clearance is received, so it is safe to say that this part of the process usually takes 4 to 6 weeks. It is very important for families to send the signed criminal history forms back to the AAI office immediately with the foster home application. If, however, the family has not lived in Washington at any time during the last three years, they must also submit their fingerprints to the FBI. This clearance takes about 2 months.
After the homestudy is approved, it is sent, along with the other foster care materials, to the regional licensor. The foster license is received in about 3 to 4 weeks.
When can a family start looking for a particular child?
It is usually not a good idea to become attached to a child before the homestudy process is completed. After the clearance is obtained and homestudy approved, a family can begin looking on the Northwest Adoption Exchange website. Be aware that only a very small proportion of the waiting children are posted on websites. The AAI office mails out homestudies to DCFS offices as soon as they are approved. Since workers want the prospective family to meet with the child, often two to four times, before overnight placement occurs, the foster license has usually been received before that phase is completed. Families open to any racial or ethnic background, older children, and sibling groups can expect a placement very quickly. Those who want very young children are likely to have a longer wait.
If you have questions about this program, please contact the AAI office at (360) 452-4777 or (888) 481-4775. You may also contact Kathy, Gay or Yvette at the AAI office.
WASHINGTON V. OREGON: WHAT's THE DIFFERENCE?
AAI also places children from Oregon with our Washington families. Some of these children can be found on the Northwest Adoption Exchange website nwae.org, or A Family for Every Child: Northwest Heart Gallery at www.afamilyforeverychild.org. The process is a bit different with Oregon but there are many wonderful children available.
- Both require Washington families to be Foster Licensed
- Both require a certain amount of contact with state social workers
- Both pay monthly foster payments before finalization and adoption support/subsidy after finalization
Some of the differences between the Washington and Oregon systems:
- All Oregon kids/prospective families go through a formalcommittee process in which about ten people look at the homestudies and child information and make placement decisions and/or recommendations. For this reason, the actual placement may take longer since the committees might be set one or two months into the future.
- Families will only be contacted IF/WHEN the Oregon workers are interested in their homestudy. They frequently do not call back.
- There are generally 2 or 3 pre-placement visits between child/ren and family in Washington.
- The Oregon system rarely allows visits before the committee selects the family. The family is chosen by the committee and then asked to come to Oregon to meet and transition the child/ren. This usually necessitates a four or five day stay for the parents in Oregon.
- Washington kids go through a similar selection process but it is not as formal and some workers have the authority to make placement decisions on their own.
- Washington is easier to deal with if there is a problem because we know many of the workers and have a better understanding of the policies and personalities involved.
- With Washington kids, AAI mails out the monthly foster checks to families. With Oregon, checks come directly from Salem.
IMPORTANT: AAI has NO control over paperwork or the ability to get control or paperwork for the Oregon system. Families who choose to accept Oregon children will be expected to deal directly with the Oregon worker and not AAI staff as we are limited in what we can help with. Once a family is selected, the Oregon worker works directly with the family regarding the placement transition, foster payments, medical coupons, adoption subsidy, and finalization of the adoption.