Recently, Kentucky Youth Advocates, in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse America, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, along with community partners held a grant funded Truth Telling Circle (TTC). The purpose of the TTC was to give young adults with foster care experience the space to openly discuss their experience within the system. The team invited community partners and stakeholders who could also benefit from hearing these stories with hopes it could bring about change to the system.
One notable theme discussed in several of the young adults’ stories was their views surrounding adoption. Two of the young adults expressed that they never had the desire to be adopted; both for different reasons. One young adult described an adoption story that was filled with traumatic experiences, and another described being let down after being told his adoption was blocked. Just as many other decisions that are made for children within the child welfare system, each participant expressed feeling as if they were not given the opportunity to give input on a decision that could possibly change their lives forever. Many of the young adults expressed a desire to be a part of the decision-making process, especially when it resulted in permanency. One key point made during the TTC was that many times adults who work with children within the system feel as if they know what is best for the child without asking the child how they feel.
Research suggests that 90% of children within the child welfare system have been exposed to a traumatic event in their life and being removed from the home can count as one of those traumatic events. There are a number of reasons why foster children may not want to be adopted, including fear of change, a desire to be reunited with their biological family, fear of losing state benefits or just not being ready in general.
Working specifically in the court system, most individuals develop the mindset that if reunification is not an option, then adoption Is the next best thing… however, the TTC emphasized that children need to be involved in their own care plan so their wishes can be considered. Incorporating child wishes into court reports is already part of standard practice with CASA of the River Region, but the TTC reminds us of the importance of the child’s wishes and its prominence in our work.