In my 10-plus years devoted to child welfare and social work administration, one thing that has frustrated me the most about my experiences with children in foster care is the number of kids - particularly older youth - who resist being adopted for fear they'll never again be able to communicate with their birth families, including siblings and grandparents, aunts and uncles.
While open adoptions - particularly from foster care - may not be an option today, they soon could be, under proposed new legislation we support - and are actively working to pass this legislative session.
Post Adoption Contact Agreements (also known as Senate Bill 1360) would allow adoptive parents and birth relatives the option of entering into a post adoption contact agreement as part of the adoption decree so that a child's connection to birth relatives can be preserved.
Youth 13 and older represent the largest group of children in foster care in Pennsylvania, even more so than infants and toddlers, which may surprise a lot of people.
About 10 years ago the federal government asked states to amend their adoption statute to authorize voluntary post adoption contact agreements in an effort to promote further adoption from foster care. This is because many youth in foster care resist adoption out of fear of losing all contact with birth relatives once the parental rights of their parents are severed. This is an option that families have in 23 states, but not yet Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 1360 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and now awaits action in the Senate. The measure would go a long way toward ensuring older youth in foster care feel OK with moving into adoptive families -"new" families that enable them to still have connections, when appropriate, with their "old" families."
Soon we'll be reaching out and asking you to contact your state senators - but we'll need your contact information to do that. So please join PA CAN, our e-advocacy network if you haven't already.
Our network gives you a voice on this and other important legislative reforms that are being considered by our General Assembly.
Help us ensure more children in foster care have safe and permanent families. Join in support of Senate Bill 1360.
Todd Lloyd is Child Welfare Director for PA Partnerships for Children