CHILD WELFARE MANUAL

Section 4, Chapter 9 (Adoption and Guardianship Process), Subsection 3 – Selecting Adoptive Families

Effective Date:  5-1-19

 

The process of selecting a family creates an opportunity to choose the ideal home and family for the child. By following the follow steps, you will gain a better understanding of what kind of home and family might be best for the child. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a family is every child is unique and you will need to consider what each of the families can offer the child as they grow up.  Do they need two parent household or is single parent household fine?  Do they need a strong male influence?  Does the child need to be an only child? Do they need to be placed with siblings? What about pets?  The answers to some of these questions may lead you to the adoptive family for the child.  

Preliminary Screening Process

The Children’s Service Worker, adoption specialist, supervisor and/or Circuit Manager will screen the Adoptive Family Assessments according to staffing criteria and select at least three (3) and no more than five (5) for consideration by the staffing committee.

Those involved in the screening include:

  • Direct Children’s Service Worker, if applicable
  • Adoption specialist
  • Children’s Service Supervisor I or Circuit Manager
  • Case manager

Criteria to consider during preliminary screening, but not limited to, is as follows:

  • Ability to meet the needs of the child
  • Ability to accept the physical, emotional, and mental conditions of child
  • Acceptance of legal risk, if applicable
  • Acceptance of continued contact with siblings, and significant others when beneficial to the child
  • Acceptance of the background of the birth parents
  • Commitment to encourage and preserve the child’s cultural identity
  • Availability of and acceptance of use of community resources required by the child
  • Acceptance of supervision during adoption process

In certain instances, it may be appropriate and necessary to hold an adoption staffing for a child when only one family becomes available as an adoptive placement resource for the child or sibling group at the request of the FST or Regional Director.

Adoption Staffing Team

The purpose of this team is to apply a Consensus Building approach to the practice of selecting a permanent family for a child in Children’s Division (CD) custody who is in need of an adoptive placement. Additionally, CD recognizes the child’s placement provider and other foster/adoptive families along with professional staff are essential, vital members of this selection process.

Team Membership – The following persons are mandatory members and shall be invited to participate in the Adoption Staffing:

  • Child’s Children’s Service Worker and his/her supervisor
  • Case manager and his/her supervisor
  • Adoption specialist and his/her supervisor, if applicable
  • Child’s placement provider (if placement provider is not an adoptive applicant for the child)
  • Other foster or adoptive parents of special needs children
  • CASA/GAL
  • Juvenile officer
  • Child’s counselor, therapist, psychologist, etc.
  • Community representative
  • Any other person who has vital significance in the child’s life
  • Prospective adoptive family’s Resource Development Worker, if geographically feasible
  • Other members – While the membership is mandatory as is notification of each member of the formal staffing meeting, it is not mandatory that all be in attendance. There shall be at minimum 80% of invited members present for the Adoption Staffing to be considered an official Adoption Staffing. Opinions, in writing, must be sought from any members unable to attend the Adoption Staffing and utilized in the staffing discussion. Member participation may be obtained via conference call during the meeting or by asking them to submit their preferences in writing prior to the meeting. To achieve consistency for all prospective family interviews, the same members must be present for each interview. If that is not possible the team member may submit their preference in writing for all prospective families. The basic intent is to obtain as much participation as possible from those who have significance in the child’s life while recognizing practical issues of busy schedules and geographic constraints.

Conflict of interest: If a relationship between a member of the team and the person being staffed exists, that precludes them from being objective, that member of the team shall be excused from the discussion and selection process.

The child’s placement provider must be invited to the staffing and every possible effort should be made to include them in the staffing decision. When geographic constraints exist, conference calls are an option. If the placement provider cannot participate in the staffing, staff should request the placement provider review the prospective families’ information and provide recommendations as to the family they selected as well as their first alternative and second alternative in writing. Staff should work hand-in-hand with placement providers to obtain their feedback and participation.  However, If the placement providers have indicated an interest in adopting the child, they are not members of the decision making process but provide information of the child to the team before being excused.

The foster or adoptive family appointed to serve as standing members of the team should be well versed in the philosophy of permanence and achieving the best interests of the child. Additionally, they shall not be Children’s Division staff members. They should be chosen on the basis of:

  • Their skill/knowledge about out-of-home/permanency planning for children
  • Demonstrated ability to successfully foster/adopt special needs children
  • Availability to participate on a regular basis
  • Ability to effectively participate as a team member

The representative of the child placing agency should be the staff member who has the greatest rapport with the child.

The community representative should be one who is interested and knowledgeable about public child welfare services.

All members of the Adoption Staffing Team shall sign the Statement of Confidentiality for Adoption Staffing Team Members, (CD-135).

Preparing for the Adoption Staffing

Prior to an Adoption Staffing being scheduled the Child’s Summary for Adoption should be provided (with identifying information- if any, blacked out) to the pre-adoptive families selected through the preliminary screening process. The families should then be given ten (10) business days to review the Child’s Summary and provide their written responses on the Family Response Form (CD-192). Once the Children’s Service Worker has received the Family Response Forms back from the prospective adoptive families, the Children’s Service Worker shall mail Child Information Packets to the team members participating in the Adoption Staffing. The Child Information Packet should contain the following information:

    1. A Cover Letter with the following information:
      1. The Adoption Staffing Meeting Time and Location (should be scheduled a minimum of two (2) to four (4) weeks in advance to allow for maximum participation)
      2. A reminder to the team members about confidentiality of the information contained in the Child Information Packet
      3. A request that if they are unable to attend that their recommendations in writing be provided five (5) business days before the scheduled meeting so that copies can be made for all staffing team members in attendance
      4. A request they return any copied material to the CD office at the time of the meeting or when they mail in their written recommendation, if they are unable to attend the Adoption Staffing. All written material copied and shared with non-CD members must be returned to the Adoption Specialist for destruction.
    2. The Child’s Summary
    3. The Statement of Confidentiality for Adoption Staffing Team Members (CD-135)
    4. The Family Response Form (CD-192)
    5. The Adoptive Family Home Assessment
    6. A blank copy of the Adoption Staffing Prospective Adoptive Family Interview Questionnaire (CD-134) should also be included in the packet so that the team members can review and come prepared to offer suggestions as to which questions on the Questionnaire they would like to ask of the potential adoptive families during the Adoption Staffing interview.

Explain to the Team that they are not required to ask the prospective adoptive families every question on the tool; however they shall use the same set of questions for every family being interviewed for the same child or sibling group. If the Adoption Staffing Team has additional questions specific to an identified family, they can include questions that are not posed in the questionnaire in order to make an informed decision regarding the family that is selected to adopt the child or sibling group.

Appropriate notice shall be given to the prospective adoptive families to allow them to make arrangements to participate in an interview either in person or by phone. Families are not required to participate in the interview process, however if they elect not to participate they should be informed of the possibility of an interviewed family being selected.

Workers shall also explain to prospective adoptive families as well as to all members of the Adoption Staffing Team, how they may request a review of the decision made by the Adoption Staffing Team, given there was a perceived error during the process or the requestor provides specific examples of perceived bias which precluded consensus from being reached.

The request must be submitted within three (3) working days of the Adoption Staffing Team decision. Requests received after the prescribed time frame will not be considered. The request is submitted on the Request for Review of Family Support Team or Adoption Staffing Team Decision, CD-190.

It must be recognized that most families will be ill at ease and sensitive to the competition with other families. Every effort must be taken to make them comfortable upon their arrival at the office and during the interview.

Plans should be made to conduct the interviews on the same day if possible; all the same members of the staffing team must be present for each interview in order to achieve consistency in the interview process.  Families should be prepared to bring their own children if this is important to the decision to place a child with a particular family.

Have the following documents available at the Adoption Staffing:

  • The Statement of Confidentiality for Adoption Staffing Team Members (CD-135)
  • The Child’s Summary for Adoption Placement
  • The Adoptive Family Assessments
  • The Family Response Forms (CD-192)
  • The Adoptive Staffing Prospective Adoptive Family Interview Questionnaires (CD-134)
  • The Adoption Staffing Decision Worksheet (CD-189)
  • Statement of Legal Risk (CD-191; optional at time of staffing)

Conducting the Staffing and Utilization of the Consensus Building Approach 

Although operating as a team, at least one (1) person must be designated to facilitate the meeting. This should be the adoption specialist, but in the event there is no adoption specialist involved, the child’s A/C worker, CD Supervisor or Children’s Service Specialist may facilitate the meeting. Conducting the Adoption Staffing:

  1. State the purpose of the meeting, and review and remind the membership of the importance of maintaining confidentiality of the information shared. The facilitator will need to have all team members sign the Statement of Confidentiality for Adoption Staffing Team Members form (CD-135).
  2. Introductions should be made of all Adoption Staffing Team Members.
  3. The facilitator, child(ren)’s A/C worker, and child’s current placement provider, present information about the child(ren), using the Child Summary for Adoption as a guide, including a recommendation regarding characteristics of the type of family who can best meet the needs of the child. This information should be concise and provide adequate information about the child’s needs, behaviors, background, etc. Answer any questions about the information provided.
  4. Share information about each prospective family. The Family Response form (CD-192) should be discussed along with information contained in the Adoptive Family Assessment.
  5. Explain to the Team the purpose of the interview and the use of the Adoption Staffing Prospective Adoptive Family Interview Questionnaire (CD-134). Team members should be made aware each questionnaire will be collected at the end of the staffing and retained in the child’s file.
    1. The Adoption Staffing Team should utilize the same set of questions for each family interested in and being considered for the same child or sibling group.
    2. The prospective adoptive families shall be given the opportunity to ask questions about the child and if selected what the transition plan may look like.
    3. Prospective families should also be given the opportunity to speak with their Adoptive Worker privately (away from the staffing) to ask any further questions related to the staffing process or the child and their background.
  6. Interview the family either in person or by phone utilizing the Adoption      Staffing Prospective Adoptive Family Interview Questionnaire (CD-134). Use the following guidelines for adoption staffing where prospective adoptive families are to be interviewed before making a final recommendation regarding the placement choice for a child. This interview should serve to enhance the information included in the adoptive family assessment and the Family Response Form (CD-192). The purpose of the interview is to enhance the staffing team’s ability to make an informed decision about which family can best meet the needs of the child. The Adoption Staffing Interview:
    1. Confidentiality expectations will be discussed. The Statement of Confidentiality for Adoption Staffing Team Members, CD-135, must be signed by all participants.
    2. A Brief overview of the child will be provided, utilizing the Child’s Summary for Adoption Placement, as a guide. At a minimum, the presentation must include the child’s legal status and a clear, but concise description of the child’s condition, including any changes or updates since the Child’s Summary for Adoption Placement was completed. The child’s desires in an adoptive family and any special requirements established for the child by the child’s jurisdictional court must be discussed. Examples of requirements of the jurisdictional court include the right to make the final selection of the adoptive family or a review of the CD recommendations before allowing the family to know of the final decision.
    3. At the end of the staffing meeting, the prospective adoptive family should be asked directly whether they continue to be interested in the specific child. Explain that there are no negative consequences to their status if they elect not to accept the child.
    4. Information should be given to families of when they will be notified of the selection decision. Consideration should be given to what is involved in making the final decision and approximately how long it will be before the decision is made.
  7. After the interviews are complete, the Adoption Staffing Team should discuss each prospective family, discussing their strengths and identify skills needed to be successful with the child to determine if they will be able to meet the needs of the child.
  8. Discuss questions and comments to achieve consensus on the family selected, first alternative family and, second alternative family with the skills to meet the needs of the child(ren) being placed using the following criteria:
    1. Ability to meet the needs of the child
    2. Ability to accept the physical, emotional, and mental conditions of the child
    3. Acceptance of the background of the birth parents
    4. Acceptance of continued contact with siblings, and significant others when beneficial to the child
    5. Acceptance of legal risk, if applicable
    6. Commitment to encourage and preserve the child’s cultural identity and religious beliefs
    7. Availability of and acceptance of use of community resources required by the child
    8. Acceptance of supervision during the adoption process
    9. Ability to rear the child to adulthood or make an alternative plan
    10. Consideration of what may happen to the child in the event of the prospective adoptive resource provider’s death or incapacitation

Consensus is a decision-making process that fully utilizes the resources of a group. It is more difficult and time consuming to reach consensus than a democratic vote or autocratic decision. There may be trade-offs and the various decision alternatives will not satisfy everyone. Complete unanimity is not the goal and this is rarely possible. However, it is possible for each individual to have had the opportunity to express their opinion, be listened to, and accept a group decision based on its logic and feasibility considering all relevant factors. This requires mutual trust and respect of each team member.

A consensus decision represents a reasonable decision that all members of the group can accept. It is not necessarily the optimal decision for each member, however it represents a decision that is in the best interest of the child(ren) being staffed. Guidelines for reaching Consensus:

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  • Make sure everyone is heard from and feels listened to. Avoid arguing for your own position. Present information as clearly as possible. Listen to each other’s reactions and comments to assess understanding of the position being presented.
  • Do not assume that someone must win and someone must lose when a discussion reaches a stalemate. Instead, look for the most acceptable decision to meet the child’s needs. Try to think creatively.
  • Team members should not change their mind simply to avoid confrontation, conflict, or to reach an agreement or maintain harmony. Explore the reasons and be sure that everyone accepts the solution for similar or complementary reasons. In this environment, the best interest of the child should be the primary focus.
  • Avoid conflict reducing techniques such as a majority vote, averaging, coin tosses or bargaining.
  • Differences of opinion are natural and expected. Seek them out; value them, and try to involve everyone in the decision process. Disagreements can improve the group’s decision.

The facilitator shall obtain the consensus of the team with the recommendations as to why they have selected a specific family as well as the team’s recommendation on a first alternative family and second alternative family. This information shall be recorded on the Adoption Staffing Decision Worksheet (CD-189) and maintained in the child’s record.

Before adjourning the meeting, obtain all the copies of the adoptive family assessments shared with the membership. Destroy all copies except one set of those considered and retain this set in the child’s file.

The leader shall notify all prospective adoptive families Resource Development Workers of the decision, if not already present at the staffing.12. The family’s Resource Development Worker should notify the family of the decision reached by the Staffing Team.

Notify the families not selected by the Adoption Staffing Team of their ability to request an Adoption Staffing Decision Review.

Although, the committee should reach a decision within one (1) meeting, in unusual circumstances it may be necessary to reconvene another staffing for a specific child to arrive at a final recommendation of the families considered.

This process should be repeated as often as necessary until the child is placed for adoption. The Leader should seek supervisory consultation and review if consensus is not met.

Activities Following Selection

Once an adoptive family has been selected the case manager/direct Children’s Service Worker will:

  • Present complete information about the child to the pre-adoptive family using an updated child’s summary within seven (7) days of selecting the family.
    • Have the family sign off on the child’s summary in acknowledgment that they have received the information.
  • Obtain commitment from family within seven (7) days of presentation, if they wish to pursue adoption of the child:
    • Explain importance of filing adoption petition within 90 days of approval for adoption.
    • If the family does not want to pursue adoption, present the information about the child to the first alternative and second alternative families.
    • Continue search for new family if none of the alternative families accept the child.
    • Obtain the adoptive family’s signature with date on the child’s summary, give the original to the family and retain a copy for the adoptive family’s case record.
  • Within five (5) days of obtaining commitment from the family, with the support of the Family Support Team, develop specifics of pre-placement plan which accommodates the wishes of the child, current foster family and pre-adoptive family, including the following:
    • First meeting
    • Additional visits
    • Other relationship building activities
    • Filing of adoption petition if licensed as a foster/adoptive family
  • Place child with the family after obtaining any required authorization from court.
    • Comply with ICPC and/or ICAMA requirements if applicable
    • Update the Placement Screen in FACES to reflect the correct type of adoptive placement and financial assistance (if the family is the current resource provider, DO NOT change the placement type)
    • Review with the family and child, if age appropriate, any concerns and issues that have evolved during pre-placement activities.
  • Inform pre-adoptive family of the availability of adoption subsidy, if needed, for the child’s care.
  • Decide on the appropriate financial assistance plan using out-of-home care funding sources or adoption subsidy according to procedures related to each of these funding sources.
  • If there are no other competing petitions anticipated or filed, and the juvenile office and legal services have declined to file the TPR, consult with the family regarding their willingness to proceed with a petition for adoption and termination of parental rights.
  • Explain child’s right to make a written request to the court that finalized the adoption to obtain identifying information about the biological parents or adult siblings at the time the child reaches age 18 as well as the right to register with the Missouri Adoption Information Registry to permit contact with biological parents or adult siblings.  Contact will be made by the registry if a match is made.
  • Explain adoptive family rights to obtain non-identifying information about the biological parent or child after adoption.
  • Explain child’s right to obtain non-identifying information regarding the biological
  • Prepare child and family for adoption, including discussion of the following issues:
    • Understanding and acceptance of the past
    • Separation from birth family
    • Meaning of and desire for adoption
    • Placement with siblings, if planned
    • Plans to continue to encourage and preserve the child’s cultural identity
  • Assess and process child and family’s readiness to complete the adoption through scheduled visitation in pre-adoptive home.Once the Division has committed to adoption by the family, removal of the child can occur only at the family’s decision that they do not wish to adopt the child, or the child’s emotional and/or physical safety is at risk (i.e., a child abuse and neglect investigation has found “preponderance of evidence” and the child is not safe in the home).
  • Prepare child and family for court hearings.
  • Prepare and submit necessary reports to the court for transfer of custody and/or final decree hearings.
  • Interpret confidential nature of adoption to child and family:
    • Develop plan for visits with siblings after adoption, if it is part of the adoption plan for the child.
    • Develop plan for continued parental or relative contact if the plan is in the best interest of the child.
  • Attend court hearings, being prepared to testify if so ordered.
  • Make one visit with family and child after final decree hearing to:
    • Make a referral to community support groups, if needed
    • Reinforce the lifetime commitment of adoption
    • Maintain links to any needed rehabilitation services
    • Remind family of yearly review of subsidy and necessary maintenance activities
    • Plan for continued counseling, if needed
    • Assure that services will be extended if at any time in the future the family or child determines they are in need of services related to the adoption
  • Record all activities every 30 days.
  • Once the adoption is finalized, change the legal status of the child to LS-5.
    • Prior to the LS-5 being added on the AC function the following must be in place:
      • Child’s DCN on adoption subsidy contract
      • TPR/Death entered on biological parents
      • Adoption Petition(Adoption Hearing) entered
      • Adoptive Placement (same DVN as on the adoption contract)
  • The alternative care case will close once an LS-5 Adoption Assistance is open in FACES.  For cases without adoption subsidy, manually close the case with the change of legal status.  Close the alternative care case record with a termination summary and copy of final decree:
    • Keep case open if continued services are required, closing case at mutually agreed upon point (if subsidy is not active)
    • Copy information needed for the Adoption Subsidy case file, either adding it to the family’s existing subsidy file or begin a subsidy case file for the family
    • Assure case has been transferred to subsidy worker. Case should be transferred from A/C to subsidy within thirty (30) working days after receiving the adoption decree and/or release or award of legal guardianship.

Adoption Staffing Team Decision Review for Family Not Selected 

Request for Review

A family not selected as the adoptive resource or a team member may request a review of the decision made by the Adoption Staffing Team, if the family believes the following regarding the staffing:

  • There was a procedure error per Adoption Staffing Team process
  • The requestor provides specific examples of perceived bias which precluded consensus from being reached.

The family must submit the request for review:

  • Within three (3) business days of the Adoption Staffing Team Meeting Decision
  • In writing using the CD-190d, submitted to the Circuit Manger of the Case Manager of the child
  • If the case is managed by a Foster Care Case Management, (FCCM), contractor, submitted to the FCCM Director.

If there are no safety concerns regarding the foster youth(s) remaining in the home, they should not be moved from the home until the decision is finalized.

Independent Reviewer Qualifications

The Independent reviewer is appointed by the Regional Director.  The reviewer must meeting the following qualifications:

  • Current Children’s Division Staff
  • No connection to the case
  • No personal or perceived interest in the outcome of the case
  • Successful completed of Mediation Training
  • Demonstrates skills with handling emotionally charged situations
  • Demonstrates skills in problem solving
  • Demonstrates skills in effective questioning
  • Demonstrates skills in active listening
  • Demonstrates an excellent understanding and practice of the best interest of the child per Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 210, 210.001, 210.112 4(3), 210.565, 210.720, 210.762

All families reviewed will be notified of the decision within one business day of the decision.

An Adoption Staffing Team member or other team member who attended the staffing must submit a written request for an Adoption Staffing Team decision review using the CD-190 to the Circuit Manager within three (3) business days of the decision. Requests after three (3) days will not be considered.

Review Process

The Circuit Manager will assign the request for a review to the reviewer within one (1) business day of receiving the written request, CD-190.  The Circuit manager will provide a copy of the CD-190 to the reviver when assigned

If the request is received beyond three (3) business days of the meeting, the Circuit Manager will contact the requester to report that the deadline was not met and the Adoption Staffing Team decision will not be reviewed.

The reviewer will be provided the following documents and information within one (1) business day of being assigned the review:

  • Adoption Profile(s)
  • Adoption staffing information packet including Home Assessments for all candidates
  • A copy of the foster youth(s)’ CS-1
  • The contact information for all the Adoption staffing Team members who attending the staffing

The Reviewer will interview the following individuals who attended the Adoption Staffing Team meeting within two (2) business days of the Reviewer receiving the CD-190 from the Circuit Manager/private contractor Director:

  • Review requester
  • Perspective adoptive parent(s) and support individual of their choice
  • Placement provider(s) and support individual of their choice
  • Foster youth(s), if age appropriate
  • Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) for the foster youth(s)
  • Other staffing attendees as the review deems necessary

The Reviewer will submit to the Circuit Manager a written report of his/her response following the review of the Adoption Staffing Team decision within five (5) business days of assignment of the review request.

Review Response

There are three (3) possible responses from the Reviewer following the review of the Adoption Staffing Team’s decision: 

  1. If the Reviewer concludes the Adoption Staffing procedure was followed and consensus was reached, the Team’s decision stands
  2. If the Reviewer concludes the Adoption Staffing Team procedure was in error per policy, the Reviewer will facilitate a new staffing by reconvening the Team members.  During this new meeting, The Reviewer will achieve an appropriate consensus decision for best interest of the foster youth(s)
  3. If the Reviewer concludes there was no consensus of the Adoption Staffing Team in the decision making and evidence of extreme bias by one or more members, the Reviewer will facilitate a new staffing by reconvening the Team members.  During this new meeting, The Reviewer will achieve an appropriate consensus decision for best interest of the foster youth(s)

The Reviewer submits to the Circuit Manager a written report of his/her conclusion after review of the Adoption Staffing Team decision using the CD-190 A. The report must include:

  • Specific examples of no consensus (if applicable)
  • Specific examples of procedure error ( if applicable)
  • The names and dates of who and when Team members were interviewed
  • Details to support that Adoption Staffing Team procedure was followed and consensus was reached with no bias
  • Specific examples of bias (if applicable)
  • Date(s) of reconvened Adoption Staffing and outcome (if applicable)
  • Evidence based support the best interest of the child was met

The Reviewer’s conclusion will be reasonable, fair, expeditious and the Children’s Division’s final decision.

Within three (3) business days of receiving the Reviewer’s conclusion, the Circuit Manager will notify the review requester the conclusion of the Reviewer.

If the family continues to not agree with the final decision by the Reviewer refer the family to their attorney for consultation regarding their right to file a petition for adoption.