An attorney questions whether parents who adopt children from state custody should be given the option to return the child if the child eventually develops mental health problems. The state agency says children adopted from foster care should be treated the same as children born into a family – the family just can’t give up the child.
The comments came Friday during an adoption task force meeting at the Capitol. A story I wrote on the issue ran in Saturday’s editions of The Oklahoma, but the point presented by DHS were cut out. Here’s the story as I wrote it:
Relief should be provided to parents who adopt from the state a child who eventually develops violent or severe mental health tendencies, an attorney told a legislative panel Friday.
The only recourse parents have is to either file a lawsuit against the Department of Human Services or risk being charged if they abandon the child, said John O’Connor, a Tulsa attorney.
DHS will take the child back only in cases of abuse and neglect.
“I’ve received phone calls over the years from couples who have adopted foster children out of DHS custody and after years of trying to make things work, it turns out the child has more psychological or emotional problems than the family can handle,” O’Connor said. “Sometimes it threatens the health and welfare of siblings, the adopted child has abused a sibling or has attempted to injure parents.
“What was a good-faith attempt to have a family with a child who has been in a warehouse now becomes a couple exhausted and emotionally spent and financially, usually, spent against the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “That’s a very, very difficult set of odds to try to overcome.”
O’Connor, who received a call two weeks ago from a parent in that dilemma, asked the Adoption Review Task Force to consider legislation to allow parents in specific, limited circumstances to return the child to DHS. The group is looking at drafting legislation dealing with adoption issues.
“It’s a very small number of cases, but it’s a very devastating impact on the family,” he said.
Karen Poteet, post adoption programs manager for DHS, said the agency only places children in its custody who are suffering from abuse or neglect.
“We disclose all of the written information that we have regarding the child’s medical issue, how they came into custody, all the social history, medical history, everything we have we disclose,” she said. “The key is everything we have because sometimes we have birth families who are cooperative with us because we remove their children. So sometimes they control the flow of information that is given to us.”
DHS tells adoptive parents that the information on the child is what was made available and the child may have physical, mental health or emotional issues that have not yet been diagnosed, Poteet said.
Parents adopting children through DHS also must complete a 27-hour course, in which parents are advised to look closely at the child’s records, she said.
“Adoptive parents need to understand this is their child forever,” Poteet said. “It is just like giving birth. And that any kind of treatment of them in the eyes of the law is that same way – just as if they gave birth.”
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau