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Problem foster to adopt relative
Hi, I'm new enough to this universe of forums that I posted this on the relative adoptive and the general state adoption boards before realizing there was a separate Virginia board. Ah, well, in hopes of finding someone with first-hand experience, here it is again:
Has anyone had experience with local DSS agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia refusing to allow relatives to foster to adopt a child in care and insisting that they either accept a simple transfer of legal custody or lose their family member to strangers?
Contrary to federal policy and code and the Adoption & Safe Families Act and the laws and practices of 45 states, three territories and the DC, Virginia does not list adoption as the second goal after reunification. Rather, it has an odd goal called "permanent placement with relatives" where the "intent" is to place the child through a "transfer of legal custody" to the relative.
This has created a situation wherein a local VA DSS agency has actually told us, as relatives, that although we are licensed foster parents and have had this (6 y.o.) child for six months and the agency has already gotten the court to eliminate the return-home goal, it will not pursue TPR and will not allow us to adopt this child. The state policy specialist has said VA law allows relatives to foster-to-adopt if the agency "has enough documentation to justify it to the court" (you'd think it would be the other way around).
If we refuse simple legal custody (no other relatives have come forward), then apparently they plan to put her back into foster care with strangers, then pursue TPR and allow nonrelatives to foster-to-adopt.
Insane, isn't it? The caseworker is not happy about it and understands that that this course is not in sync with federal law or national practice, but apparently the feds do not have jurisdiction over individual family law cases--it is a state matter. All the feds can do is pull funding out of noncompliant states.
To be clear: This is not "permanent legal custody," guardianship or subsidized kinship care anything; according to its own state assessment, Virginia does not have those statuses or programs.
As we understand it, the effect of this goal on kids is horrible.
First and foremost, it is not true permanency. Parents keep their rights and can continue to challenge for custody, visitation, support reduction, etc., and the state has no obligation to defend the child--it is all on the relative, legally and financially. The relative can even actually relinquish custody back to the parent (and possibly the state) at any time. You could never look your child in the eye and legally call her daughter or promise her that you'll always take care of her.
Second, it eliminates children's Title IV-E eligibility under the Adoption Act and leaves them with no guaranteed medical/mental health coverage and often Medicaid ineligible.
Third, by booting children out of the foster-to-adopt world, it eliminates all other federally funded services and benefits (such as foster or adoption subsidy) and private charitable services (such as Casey Family Services) that the children would otherwise qualify for.
The only saving grace is that we live in another state and our state SS and ICPC people are fighting for us. I'm just not sure they can win....
Since Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Maryland all put adoption after return home, it seems this would be a problem for ICPCs w/VA in those states, too.
Anyone else have experience with agencies taking this position? Any insights are greatly appreciated!
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