CHILD WELFARE MANUAL

Section 4, Chapter 9 (Adoption and Guardianship Process), Subsection 1 – Adoption Planning Process

Effective Date:  5-1-19

 

In keeping with the philosophical base that every child is entitled to a safe, secure, and permanent home, the Children’s Division is obligated to make a diligent search for appropriate adoptive placements for those children for whom adoption has become the permanent plan.  

The adoption process includes three distinct phases: preparation, placement support and post-placement services. The length of the process will depend upon the age and developmental level of the child, knowledge and skill level of the adoptive parents, and the comfort level of the child.

9.1.1 Children Eligible for Adoption

Children in the custody of the Children’s Division between the ages of birth and18 years are eligible for adoption only when all birth, legal and/or putative parents have voluntarily relinquished all their rights or when the court has terminated all parental rights. 

9.1.2 Foster Parent Preference and First Consideration for Placement

According to Missouri Statute 453.070, RSMo “Any adult person or persons over the age of eighteen, who, as foster parent or parents, have cared for a foster child continuously for a period of nine months or more and bonding has occurred as evidenced by the positive emotional and physical interaction between the foster parent and child, may apply to such authorized agency for the placement of such child with them for the purpose of adoption if the child is eligible for adoption. The agency and court shall give preference and first consideration for adoptive placements to foster parents. However, the final determination of the propriety of the adoption of such foster child shall be within the sole discretion of the court.”

In addition, RSMo 210.566 states:  “If a foster child becomes free for adoption and the foster parents desire to adopt the child, they shall inform the caseworker within sixty (60) days of the caseworker’s initial query. If the foster parents choose not to pursue adoption, they shall make every effort to support and encourage the child’s placement in a permanent home, including but not limited to providing information on the history and care needs of the child and accommodating transitional visitation, per RSMo 210.566.

The Division implements this requirement when the child is legally available for adoption or when it appears very likely the child will be legally available for adoption by assessing the interest and capacity of the present family to adopt the child. Additionally, it is important to note that neither the Division nor the statute provides a guarantee that the present resource provider family will be approved or granted the right to adopt the child in their care. As in any adoption, only the juvenile court has the final authority to approve the adoption of a specific child by a specific family.

During the staffing process the worker/team making adoption plans for a child should consider the foster parents’ capacity to meet the child’s long-term needs through adoption prior to considering other adoptive families.

In making the selection of an adoptive family, consideration must be given to all of the child’s current and future needs.  Since adoption is a lifetime commitment for both the family and the child, attention must be given to assessing the many issues involved in meeting the child’s needs and the ability of a prospective adoptive family to meet those needs.

In assessing resource provider families who currently have the child in care, the Division will assess the following factors:

  • The length of time the child has been in the family’s care
  • The attachment of the child to the family and the ability of the child to make new attachments
  • The age of the child at placement with the specific family
  • The child’s medical, educational, emotional, social, cultural identity and the family’s demonstration of meeting these needs as a predictor for successful parenting throughout the child’s growth to adulthood
  • The family’s understanding of the purpose and meaning of the adoptive relationship
  • The child’s desire to be adopted by the specific family
  • The child’s acceptance as a member of the immediate family and understanding of the child’s role in the extended family
  • The child’s assimilation into the family, including the family’s ability to encourage and preserve the child’s cultural identity and religious background
  • Whether the child has siblings that will need placement with the child
  • The need for continued contact (after adoption) with siblings, other relatives/kin and significant others
  • The family’s acceptance of legal risk
  • The child’s unique parenting needs

When adoption becomes the permanency goal, the worker shall inform the current resource family of:

  • The nine month preference statute and placement selection policies. This can be waived for supervision or desertion of the judge
  • The required completion of an adoptive family assessment
  • The required filing of the adoption petition within 90 days of the Division’s recommendation/approval for the family to adopt the child
  • The Division’s willingness and desire that they have full opportunity to express their interest in adoption and to provide assistance in reaching this decision
  • The range of factors that are assessed in determining their capacity to parent the child
  • The availability of an adoption subsidy to assist in meeting the immediate and long-term costs of the child’s needs
  • The child’s right, after age 18 to file a request with the court granting the adoptee to obtain identifying information about the biological parents or adult biological siblings
  • Their right, legal guardian’s, and the child’s right, at age 18, to secure non-identifying information regarding the biological parents and siblings via completion of CS-50
  • The child’s right to register with the Adoption Information Registry via CD-51a at age 18 if he/she wishes to indicate a desire to be contacted by the biological parents or adult biological siblings
  • The Family Support Team may serve as an Adoption Staffing if the only family being considered is the current placement providers. Use of a formal staffing team is still required if recommended by the Family Support Team or Regional Director.

If the resource provider elects to adopt the child, they will not be a member of the staffing team.  When the resource parent chooses not to pursue adoption, they shall make every effort to support and encourage the child’s placement in a permanent home, including but not limited to providing information on the history and care needs of the child, accommodating transitional visitation and participating in the Adoption Staffing as a mandatory team member.

Confirm the family’s interest in adoption within seven (7) days of explaining the permanent plan.  If the family is not interested or appropriate, seek another adoptive family to achieve permanency.  If interested, refer the family for adoptive application and family assessment to adoption specialist.

Record any factors that resulted in the decision that the current resource family is appropriate as an adoptive parent within five (5) working days of decision.

9.1.2.1 Preparing the Child/Family for Adoption by Foster Parents

Even though a child has resided with a foster family for a significant period of time, a number of issues may arise once the child becomes available for adoption. It is imperative that the Children’s Service Worker address these issues with the child and family to ensure a smooth transition from a temporary to a permanent relationship. The issues which must be discussed include the following:

    • Adoption requires a permanent commitment by all parties and should be thoughtfully considered and agreed to by the child and family. The foster parent shall inform the caseworker within sixty days of the caseworker’s initial query if they desire to adopt the child per RSMo 210.566. The family/child might need a third-party intermediary or therapist to assist them in making the decision.
    • The role of Children’s Division will change from case management to placement support. The foster/adoptive parent will be responsible for making decisions and arrangements related to the child’s education, health care, counseling, etc.
    • Family dynamics may change as new roles, expectations and responsibilities evolve from the change of the child’s status of foster child to adopted child. 

9.1.3 Considerations in the Selection of an Adoptive Family

The Division’s goal, in fulfilling its commitment to a child who is available for adoption, is to locate and place the child with a family that can best provide permanency for the child.  This goal should be achieved within the shortest possible time from entry into out-of-home care and/or the decision that the child is available for adoption.  Meeting the child’s needs includes basic respect for his/her emotional, health, educational, and social needs, and integrating the cultural identity and religious background of the child. The Child’s Summary for Adoption shall be completed for any child for whom active recruitment is required to locate a prospective adoptive family.   Information may be gathered from the current foster/kinship/relative provider or other professional team members if needed. Families selected must demonstrate in various ways their ability to meet these needs and must have an approved adoptive family assessment.

The Division, in expressing its responsibility for protection of the child and expertise in the practice of child placement, must make a decision that a specific family will be most likely to best meet the needs of the child. Adoption is different in the sense that the child arrives as a member of the family in a different manner. Thus, placement selection must be a carefully considered decision. To aid in this, an Adoption Staffing Team is used. This process is mandatory for a child being placed with a new family; however it is an optional process for the selection of the current resource provider family as the adoptive parent, unless required by the Family Support Team or recommended by the Regional Director or designee, and then must be completed.

9.1.3.1 Sibling Preference/Consideration

The sibling relationship is unique and should be fostered in its own right (Youth Leadership Advisory Team, 2002). The sibling relationship in placement can serve as a source of safety, security and promote a sense of well-being and should be considered a priority when considering permanency through adoption. Siblings should be recruited for placement together unless a determination has been made that placement together is not in the best interest of the children.

When considering permanency through adoption for a sibling group it is important to consider the preservation of sibling relationships and bond and understand that siblings placed together can provide support and healing during a time of transition and change.

The Circuit Manager and appropriate regional staff will conduct a Sibling Separation Administrative Review when a Family Support Team has recommended separation of siblings for the purpose of adoption. The Administrative Review Team shall take into consideration the specific needs of each individual child and should review all pertinent information, including therapy reports, the sibling bonding assessment (if completed) and recommendations from the Family Support Team.

If the outcome of the Administrative Review is to deny separation of siblings, recommendations should be made by the Administrative Review Team regarding the placement of siblings together. The Children’s Division should continue to recruit for the siblings as a group. Documentation of the Administrative Review should be placed in the Child’s section of the record.

If the outcome of the Administrative Review is to approve the separation of siblings, the Children’s Division may recruit for separate adoptive resources for the children. Documentation of the Administrative Review should be placed in the Child’s section of the record.

9.1.3.2 Special Needs Children

The agency must document in each child’s case record, as well as on the application/plan, the specific factor(s) that make the child difficult to place and the needs for subsidy. (Reference 13 CSR 40-38.020).

A “child with special needs”: as defined by the characteristics listed below:

    • The child cannot or should not be returned to the home of his/her parents.
    • It has been determined there exists, with respect to the child, a specific factor or condition (such as his/her ethnic background, age, membership in a minority or sibling group, or the presence of factors such as medical conditions or physical, mental, or emotional handicaps) because of which it is reasonable to conclude that such child cannot be placed with adoptive parents without providing adoption assistance.
    • A single child, who is a member of a sibling group, but is being placed as a single child, must meet the subsidy eligibility criteria as a single child. In accordance with Federal Title IV-E funding, if any child in a sibling group is determined to be IV-E eligible the remaining siblings are also to be found IV-E eligible.
    • That, except where it would be against the best interest of the child because of such factors as the existence of significant emotional ties with prospective adoptive parents while in the care of such parents as a foster child, a reasonable, but unsuccessful, effort has been made to place the child with appropriate adoptive parents without providing subsidy assistance.
    • Has a condition (i.e., a state of health or behavior) which results in a guarded prognosis (although the child may appear normal) due to mental illness or retardation, drug usage by, or venereal disease of the parents.
    • Has a history, which includes circumstances such as long-term out-of-home care, incest, or social or genetic complications in the family background.
    • Recruitment efforts must have not produced appropriate adoptive parent(s) who could care for the child without the assistance of an adoption subsidy.
    • An adoptive family is not “readily available” meaning a family who is willing to accept the child and appropriate to meet the child’s needs without a subsidy.

If the agency has determined that the child cannot or should not return home, and the child meets the statutory definition of special needs with regard to specific factors or conditions, then the agency can pose the question of whether the prospective adoptive parents are willing to adopt without assistance. If they say they cannot adopt the child without adoption assistance, the requirement for a reasonable, but unsuccessful effort to place the child without providing adoption assistance has been met. (As defined in Section 473c of the Social Security Act);

Or

Special needs child placed in Missouri through a private child-placing agency and is Title IV-E eligible. Missouri is required by federal rule to provide adoption subsidy to these children.

Children who meet the criteria for special needs may qualify for adoption subsidy. 

9.1.3.3 Legal Risk Placements

Children in the custody of the Children’s Division, with a goal of adoption, yet not legally free for adoption, pose a legal risk to their potential adoptive parents. Circumstances which lead to a legal risk include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

    • The plan is adoption, but parental rights for one or all of the parents have not been terminated.
    • Parental rights have been terminated by the court of jurisdiction and parent(s) have appealed the decision to an appellate court.
    • Plan for publication is in process but not yet accomplished.
    • Parents have signed voluntary consents to adoption but the court has not legally terminated parental rights

The family accepting the child(ren) as a legal risk placement must understand that the goal of adoption may not be obtained and/or the child(ren) may be returned to the home of the parents.

Whatever the circumstances, it is imperative the prospective adoptive parents be provided the Legal Risk Statement, CD-191, describing clearly the legal risk involved with the child, which would need to be resolved prior to the adoption becoming finalized. The prospective adoptive parents shall be required to sign and date the Legal Risk Statement, CD-191.

If parental rights have not been terminated, the prospective adoptive parents must be licensed as foster parents. Both the child and parents are eligible for foster care services.                            

9.1.3.4 Cross Cultural/Cross Racial Adoptive Placements

We know that our cultural diversity influences our view of the world as well as the world’s perception of who we are. We also know that some differences among people are easily seen while others are subtle. In order to ensure consistency in the child’s day-to-day life, to support the development of a positive self-image, increase feelings of security and reduce feelings of isolation, a child should be placed in a home that respects the child’s cultural identity and can best meet the individualized needs of the child.

In making the selection of an adoptive family, consideration must be given to all the child’s current and future needs. Since adoption is a lifetime commitment for both the family and the child, attention must be given to assessing the many issues involved in meeting the child’s needs and the ability of a prospective family to meet those needs. Once this match has occurred, the placement, if not with the present foster family, should be made as soon as possible. The child’s record must clearly document the staffings, administrative reviews and Children’s Service Worker’s efforts to find an appropriately matched adoptive home for the child as well as documentation as to the reasons a particular home was selected.

Public Law 104-188, Section 1808, 110 Stat. 1903-1904 states:

“(18) not later than January 1, 1997, provides that neither the State nor any other entity in the State that receives funds from the Federal Government and is involved in adoption or foster care placements may –

“(A) deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the person, or of the child, involved; or

“(B) delay or deny the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent, or the child, involved.”

Missouri Statute, Section 453.005.3 RSMo states: The race or ethnicity of the adoptive child, the child’s biological parents, or the prospective adoptive parents shall not be a consideration when determining the best interests of the child, the welfare of a child, the suitability and assessment of prospective adoptive parents, or the home of the prospective adoptive parents in adoptive placements.

9.1.4 Physical/Psychological Evaluation Prior To Placing A Child For Adoption

Within the preceding six (6) months of a child’s adoptive placement, a child shall have had;

  • Comprehensive medical examination
  • Dental examination for children age three (3) or older

A mental health examination/evaluation is warranted if background information, prior emotional challenges, mental health history, family history, or developmental concerns warrant such an examination/evaluation. However, if the child has had an evaluation conducted in the last 3 years, a summary of the available evaluation reports from psychosocial, neuropsychological, psychological and summary information regarding any current treatment or counseling may take the place of the a new examination/evaluation.