The road to adoption: the community works together to make the adoption process shorter
11,445 children spent at least one day in the foster care system in Oregon in 2018, according to the Department of Human Services Report for that year.
59% of them were reunited with their families – however – that still leaves around 5000 kids. For some children, reuniting with their families is not an option, and the road to adoption can take years.
“What is the problem we need to solve, and how can we do it better working together?” Jennifer Mylenek, Executive Director of CASA for Jackson and Josephine County, said.
According to the DHS report for 2018, 7,949 children were in the foster care system in Oregon on a day to day basis and over 11,000 were in foster care for at least a day.
Among the 7,949, 666 adoptions were finalized. That's 8%.
The ultimate goal is reunification with their biological parents, but for some children that is not always an option.
The adoption process in Oregon goes through multiple steps, with multiple requirements, and many forms to fill out.
“The more we know about the adoption process, the more that we can advocate to keep those timelines in process and hopefully speed things up,” casa worker
There is one mother that knows this situation all too well.
Bylle McCulley and her husband adopted her son after he had been going back and forth between them and his biological mother for years.
“After about 5 years it was a return to mom situation and we always tried to help her and to be respite care providers for her at that time. so, fortunately, she did relinquish her rights so we were able to adopt Adrian but the adoption process once the rights were relinquished, it did take two years,” McCulley said.
The drawn-out process can be emotionally challenging for a child – not knowing for sure where their place is, and not having a place to call "home".
“For him, it was just very emotionally devastating for him and I think kids do tell you how they feel. they tell you what they want. he had nightmares, he would wake up at night with ‘don’t let me go, don’t let me go. The lack of permanency for children – not knowing where am I going to grow up? Who is my family? What school am I going to go to? Can I play football? Can I enroll in gymnastics? what school will I be in?" McCulley said.
Different officials attend the Model Court Summit in Salem every year to discuss what can be done to make the child's life easier.
“We bring all of our community partners so we have aj’s office, defense attorneys, the judge and we bring DHS and they’ll collaborate on ideas to see where we can strengthen our programs. and so the big issue this year was how do we expedite adoptions, where are hold-ups, where are our weaknesses, where are our strengths,” Judge Kelly Ravassipour with the Jackson County Circuit Court said.
Different things are being done to help expedite the adoption process.
“We’re setting more review hearings so we can follow those cases. we do something called a permanency hearing once a year to check in to make sure DHS is compliant with the current case plan” Judge Ravassipour said.
Along with permanency hearings, CASA workers are doing their part by making sure each child's case is constantly being checked on and is meeting the correct milestones necessary in order to be adopted.
“We hope in all of our cases, we hope for that child to know that they are loved, to feel that they belong somewhere, and to have all of their needs met and to be safe – we have really found out that there is a piece everyone can play in making this move along better for kids,” Mylenek said.