Monday, February 09, 2015

Dear Governor Rauner

Enough people have asked me what would be most helpful to include in a letter that I'm going to do the rare second post in one day. (Links to the governor and state legislators can be found in my earlier post about Illinois and its horrendous adoption record.)

>>I have edited this a little bit... I have now heard we are one of three states, Alabama being the third which require DCFS homestudy approval. Also, the person holding the DCFS job evidently left her desk empty, but despite having three months notice, DCFS took two weeks AFTER the position was vacant to fill it.<<

Here are the two most important points to include:

1. Illinois is currently taking at least 9 weeks to process child abuse clearances. This is unnecessary and someone should find out why it is taking so long, when earlier this year it was taking just a few days. Is it true that clearances for homestudy purposes are being shuttled to the bottom of the pile? Why?

2. Why are tax payers footing the bill to pay for someone in DCFS to approve homestudies which are written by licensed social workers employed by licensed adoption agencies? Only one other state in the country requires this and it is a total waste of time and money. DCFS could certainly use that person to investigate and monitor the residential care centers DCFS wards are sent to rather than harassing documented healthy families who desire to provide a permanent, stable home for a child. In a state that is having trouble paying its bills, it would seem that all superfluous positions should be eliminated.

This is a copy of the letter I sent to Governor Rauner:


Dear Governor Rauner,

I know that there are many pressing issues regarding the state of Illinois that you must deal with, and that since the one I am writing about affects a relatively small number of families, it may not rise to the top in importance. It is also one, though, that I am quite sure you are unaware of (based on the fact that the lawmakers I’ve talked to weren’t) and I think at the very least, you should be.

Currently, Illinois has a really rotten reputation in the world of adoption, and it is well-earned. We are an adoptive family, having adopted three children and are currently in process to adopt another daughter. The state of Illinois has not made it easy. Here are some basic facts to begin with.

1. Illinois is one of only two states in the country (Arizona being the second) which require homestudies, written by social workers who are licensed by the state and working for agencies which are also licensed by the state, to be approved by one single person in DCFS. In every other state, once a social worker approves a family’s homestudy, that family is free to use it to do the next steps required in bringing home their child.

Because of this, there is both a bottle-neck in getting homestudies approved and the approvals are given at the personal whims of DCFS worker in this position. Right now, there are families who have been waiting for five or more weeks to have their homestudies approved. This is costing them time in adopting their child and often that means it is time that a child is sitting in an orphanage. An orphanage, I might add, that DCFS would never approve of if it were in the US.

There is no need for this loss of time as there is no need for this position. In early 2013, there was a bill before the IL legislature to do away with the position and the need for homestudies to have a second approval. Many adoptive families wrote to their representatives retelling the time lost and harassment we received from the person in this position, yet for some reason the bill was tabled and never acted on.

2. Because of the unsupervised and localized power the person in this position has, it allows personal biases to go unchecked. In the case of the last person to hold the position, those of use with larger than average families were harassed and we lost even more time with our children.

In our case, we have adopted three times. In all adoptions, we have lived in the same house, we have held the same jobs, we have made the same (or more) amount of money. The only thing that changed from adoption to adoption was the number of our children. For our first adoption, everything went smoothly. We had no problems, but we were under the strict DCFS capacity guidelines. For our second adoption, adding a 7th child, we managed to get approval, but there was a distinct hint of disapproval.

Our third adoption was our trial by fire. The child we were adopting would be our 10th. Our social worker approved us without hesitation, wrote a glowing homestudy, and sent it to DCFS for approval. While it was eventually approved nearly three months later, it was after it being denied twice and multiple requests for more information. Some of those requests were questions which were little more than thinly veiled accusations that we had initially lied. “How do you and your husband resolve conflict, really?” “How do you find time for yourself, really?” Those were some of the word-for-word questions which came back to us. We were also required to submit detailed accounts of how we spent our days, including our homeschooling schedule. Due to Illinois’ homeschooling statutes, I’m quite sure that this request for information was illegal and out of bounds, but by this time we were so afraid that we would not be able to bring our daughter home that we complied. Our homestudy would eventually be more than 20 pages long, over twice the length of most other homestudies. We were also required to supply more than twice the number of personal and work references than required by the state and Hague Convention for the Child. The crowning moment was the last rejection and request for more information. We were required to complete a water safety form because there was concern about our ability to keep our children safe from the water hazard which was nearby. That supposed water hazard was Lake Michigan which is half a mile from our home. In our previous homestudies, we were never required to complete this form and it was clearly meant for use when there is a pool or pond in a front or back yard.

Many other large families have had similar (or worse) experiences. No one talks about this because when you are in process, there is a real fear that you will not be allowed to bring your child home, and afterwards, it seems like a bad nightmare that you would rather not revisit.

3. Illinois does not really care for children. If they did, the adoption process would be more manageable and the state would do more to help bring children into permanent, stable, and healthy families.

In order for any homestudy to be completed, child abuse clearances must be done on each person over 18 living in the household. This makes sense and is a safety measure to protect children. I am not against child abuse clearances. What I am bothered by is the fact that currently Illinois is taking 9 weeks to complete these clearances. Other adoptive parents have been told that child abuse clearances for homestudies are purposefully being moved to the bottom of the stack; everyone else takes priority. Less than a year ago, clearances were taking merely a matter of days. Clearly, there is no reason that parents should have to wait so long for something that has been such a simple step.

The placement agencies we have used for our adoptions are all out of state. When they hear that we are from Illinois, there is invariably words of condolence and I have been told more than once that they will do everything they can to help us work through the system. No one wants to work with Illinois and they do not appreciate the extra work and time that Illinois costs them. For our last adoption, because of the delay with DCFS, we had to request and extension from China because we could not submit our dossier in the time frame they had requested. This in no way our fault as we completed our portion of the homestudy and dossier with ample time to make the deadline. Having to ask for an extension was embarrassing to us, our agency, and did not further China/US relationships in regards to adoption. There was also the very real possibility that China could have denied our request and we would have lost the chance to adopt our daughter. With the current IL time frames, we stand a good chance of missing the deadline once again and having to ask for an extension. This, even though we have completed our homestudy in one month’s time, including doctor’s appointments for 12 people. The delay is solely due to Illinois non-functioning and redundant requirements.

What would I like from you? First, I would love for someone to look into exactly why child abuse clearances are taking so long. Second, I would love to see Illinois eliminate the need for DCFS to have to approve every homestudy. It is pointless and expensive. Why would some person sitting at a desk in Springfield have a better idea of a family’s capacity to parent than the social worker who has actually met the family. Given the recent reports of the horrific residential care centers where DCFS wards have been placed, it would seem to make more sense for DCFS to spend more time fixing their own problems and less time worrying about documented healthy families who want to provide a permanent placement for a child.

I have written multiple emails to my state representatives about these issues and have heard back nothing. I have even extended the invitation of joining us for dinner if they have any reservations about how well a family of our size functions. (The invitation is also extended to you as well, though I am doubtful that you are in a position to accept. That I understand.) I am tired of having this problem ignored and I am angry that if the timelines do not change, we will miss yet another Christmas with our daughter who waits for us in China. We have already missed 9 with her, and I hate the thought of missing another, all due to senseless bureaucracy.

Thank you for your time in reading this. I know it is long and I apologize. If it helps to have a real face to put to this, here is a link to our daughter who is waiting for us. She has linear nevus sebaceous syndrome, an extremely rare disease, but one that one of our daughters at home also has. 

http://twentyless.com/tina/

Sincerely.

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