Saturday, January 22, 2011
DFCS - A Four Letter Word
Okay, I know DFCS really isn't a word but rather an acronym. However, as my husband always says, "You can't let the facts stand in the way of a good story."
Someone recently inquired about my experience with the Georgia Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS). When I think about our foster care adoption experience, I think about it in two different phases: pre-placement and post-placement. While I would rate our overall experience as satisfactory, it really did vary from one phase to the other.
So, I will start with the bad first: Pre-placement.
Once it was decided that we would purse adopting from foster care, we went wide open trying to get everything done as quickly as possible. We made our initial phone to DFCS in October of 2008. There were no more IMPACT (required training for foster and adoptive families) classes scheduled in our county until 2009. So, Billy and I drove several weekends a little over an hour each way to complete our classes. We did everything that was asked of us in record time. All of our home study visits were completed on December 1st (including every bit of paperwork turned in). Our home study ended up being about a 13 page document. The home study had to be signed off and approved by two management members at DFCS in order for us to be considered for adoption. Until it was approved, our home study was not placed in the state database where other Case Workers in the state could view our profile.
I waited patiently for what I considered a long time. While I realize that our county may not have had children they thought were a good fit for us, there may have been other possible situations that we were missing out on being considered for in other parts of the state. I didn't expect DFCS to pull children out of the thin air for us but I did expect that a 13 page home study can be read and approved in less than five and a half months. DFCS solicits the need for foster and adoptive families but then drag around on getting them approved so those families can actually accept placement of children. I was hardly impressed by the hurry up and wait game. After all, five and half months is long time in the life of a waiting child.
One day, I woke up and I must say I had my game day face on. As my grandmother use to say, "Enough of anything is enough." I had been nice and I had waited patiently and it got us no where. When I failed to get results in a timely fashion, I contacted the Governor's office and filed a complaint. I wrote letters to all the big cheeses in charge. I got responses. I also started getting my phone calls answered at DFCS or at least my phone calls returned. I guess it is fair to say that I made enemies before I started making friends at DFCS. That was okay because I wasn't there to make friends anyways. As usual when my charm wears off, my very likable and jovial husband was probably our saving grace.
Once our home study was completed, we were assigned a Case Worker. She is a person that basically represents and works with the adoptive family. She is the one that makes sure that our file is current, our training is up to date, answers questions for us, presents children's files to us, etc. Our personalities mixed as well as oil and water. It was an awkward relationship like the kind where you both go to talk at the same time and each never truly feel comfortable with each other. She had also been in her job for many, many years but seemed to having trouble answering a lot of the most simplest questions. I always felt discouraged about the adoption process after she would leave our home. Once, I was talking to a lady that she had inquired about adopting from DFCS and had meet our Case Worker for an initial meeting. This lady and her husband decided to pursue international adoption because this Case Worker was so rude and negative toward them. Unfortunately, I can understand why they felt that way. I have often wondered how many good families this lady has discouraged from pursuing foster care adoptions. It is my desire that this lady be happily enjoying retirement if we ever decide to pursue foster care adoption again.
At any given time there are approximately 3,500 potential adoptive situations (with the number of kids involved being much higher) listed on www.adoptuskids.org. As long as there are numbers as astounding as that, DFCS will never be able to justify taking five and half months to approve a home study to me. So my advice to anyone pursuing foster care adoption would be to stay on your Case Worker and don't worry about being too pushy or impatient. After all, there are a lot of voiceless children that are counting on people like YOU!
Stay tuned for the POSITIVE post!