Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tales from the BSE: Improper or Illegal child adoptions cause heartaches, problems

County welfare unit helps deserving couples.

Improper or Illegal child adoptions cause heartaches, problems

New Castle News, New Castle, PA. Friday, November 11, 1966

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth and final article in a series about the county Child Welfare Department. It deals with the most controversial of all child welfare topics—adoption. It includes case histories (with names of families altered) of heartbreak and questionable legality that have resulted from "gray market" adoptions in Lawrence County in the recent past. It also tells how local couples can now apply through the reorganized department to receive one of the greatest of possible blessings—an adopted child.)

Adopting a child can and should be a deeply rewarding experience for county couples. The only sadness it should produce is the normal heartache that comes with raising any child: the worry over a child's illness, performance in school or application of discipline. But there are special and deeply sorrowful kinds of heartache reserved for some couples who choose to adopt children in an unapproved way, according to county officials.

The case of the Greyes in Neshannock Township is an example. Mr. and Mrs. Greyes adopted their child through a friend. The friend knew an unmarried girl who was pregnant and made arrangements for the baby to be turned over to the Greyes as soon as it was born. In return, the Greyes agreed to pay the girl's prenatal medical expenses.

The important element the Greyes never considered was a medical and psychological examination for the infant — a standard Child Welfare Department procedure. Six months later, a growing fear of the Greyes' was confirmed in an examination that should have been performed at the baby's birth: their new child was severely retarded.

It has lived in a state institution ever since. And the Greyes have faced the daily doubts common to all parents of retarded children. Had they done the right thing for the child?

Adrian J. Turowski, county Child Welfare director, feels such a situation is not likely when adoptions are made through his department.

Private Adoptions
"Private adoptions (also called independent or gray-market adoptions) are entirely legal," Turowski is careful to point out. "But we are required by law to be more thorough than individuals who arrange for adoptions. We place babies who are offered for adoption in a temporary foster home for three months before they go to their adoptive parents. This prevents any distasteful contact between the natural mother and the adopting couple and it gives us ample time to secure careful medical and psychological checks on the child," he says.

"After the baby goes to his new parents, we must wait six months before we seek final court approval of the adoption. That provides enough time to study the relationship between parents and child." The Child Welfare Department is charged by state law to operate always in the best interests of the child.

This charge is also carried out by painstaking investigations into the background and suitability of couples who apply to adopt a child. Then, an attempt is made to match the expected characteristics and mentality of each child to those of a couple which has applied. The system takes longer than a private placement, but it is cheaper (since the couples do not pay pre-natal care for the natural mother-only a $25 application fee) and it is almost certain to be more successful.

Success of Adoption
The success of an adoption can also depend on its legal aspects. Consider the sad case of Mr. and Mrs. Lynda on the east side. The Lyndas adopted an infant through a doctor in another country. The adoption was made final in court and no snag developed for a year. But then the baby's natural mother came to the house one day and demanded her child's return. The Lyndas were especially alarmed because they were told by a friend of the mother, who had allegedly witnessed her signature to the adoption consent paper, that the young woman had gone onto the West Coast. Now the mother claimed the signature was forged. The woman hired a lawyer, took her case to court, and won return of the baby.

Now, under a new rule for adoptions, the Lawrence County Court adopted last month, a natural mother must appear in court at the adoption hearing for her child and testify that she will forever relinquish parental rights to the child. Only then can adopting parents be protected from seizure of the child, unless the adoption is handled by the Child Welfare Department.

Under state law, signed relinquishment papers secured by a licensed agency and an approved professional worker such as one from the county department will be honored as if they were testimony taken in court from the natural mother.

Laws Complicated
The adoption laws are admittedly complicated, but they are concise and, if carefully obeyed, assure protection for defenseless children. The need for that principle, too, has been demonstrated through failure in Lawrence County.

A tavern keeper with a police record for gambling and his wife applied to adopt a child in 1960. The baby of a local woman was placed in their home and, after the required six-month waiting period, the court was petitioned to make the adoption final.

A former judge asked the former Child Welfare Department direction at the hearing if an investigation into the case had been conducted. He was told “yes”, then asked if the man’s gambling record had been considered. The welfare direction replied that only one conviction had been reported, though court records at the time showed several The judge said he recalled more than one conviction, and added that he would not approve the adoption of the child into the home unless the record improved. Nothing further was done, and now the court record shows several new convictions and arrests.

Investigators from the reorganized Child Welfare Department report observing the child, now six years old, cavorting behind the bar in the tavern. They say the child appears well-kept and happy, but deplore the unfortunate legal status which has left the child with no legitimate family. Department personnel vow that such an indecisive vase will never be repeated.

New Approach
Their new professional approach should be encouraging to local couples considering adoption. Successful results are the rule with the steps that are now followed.

Couples are asked to come into the department offices when they make an appointment to apply. They provide information for a comprehensive form and their names are placed on a waiting list for study. The investigation which follows includes an evaluation of their home, their personal references, their health and finances. If they are approved, they are placed on a second waiting list and the department begins comparing their qualities with those of children who are offered for adoption. Some placements are made within a few
Others take years.

The six month waiting period before adoption is made final is filled with supervisory visits by caseworkers to the home to determine the child’s normal development and to asses his adjustment to his new parents. The parents are probably the key factor to success.

Turowski says, “By this time in the adoption process, we have analyzed the couples, marital status, the reasons they want the child, their flexibility and open-mindedness, their past and present relationships with everyone (including neighbors and fellow church members and employers), their age, health and education, their financial ability to provide for the child and the kind of home they have to offer. If they have passed that grueling examination, they are fairly well assured of success.

Adoption Rules?
Who can adoption children in Lawrence County? A policy statement awaiting final approval now by the county commissioners says nearly any mature couple is eligible. Children under two would not be given to couples over 43, if the policy is approved. And no children could be given to couples under 22 weeks. Couples should be married for 30 months before applying and should live in the county.

“There should be some indication of religious belief on the part of the adoptive parents,” the policy states. “Attempts will be made to match religion.

“No working mother will be given a pre-school child. Applications for inter-racial placement will be accepted.”

The least statement leads to an interesting revelation from Turowski. He says seven children from other areas of the country will have been placed in county homes before the year is done – including three American Indian children. Two white, inter-racial children are now waiting adoption, he adds. He hopes some local couples will be moved to ask for them.

The final statement in the policy declares, significantly, “No dealings between the natural parents and the adoptive parents are allowed under penalty of removing the child from the home.”

5 complaints from ingrates:

Anonymous,  November 29, 2007 at 6:32 AM  

The Baby Scoop era is making a come-back then.

Close the adoption, and don't let any bio family near the child.

They don't even need to go to court.

All it takes is a social worker to get your signature without a lawyer or witnesses. What's the betting that they will once again hover like vultures in hospitals.

And no chance of getting your baby back like that mother mentioned earlier in the article.

BTW - interesting that they now admit letting convicted criminals have our children.

Convicted criminals were considered OK for our children and we were not? Hmmm ....


Anonymous,  November 29, 2007 at 6:45 AM  

Sorry - I didn't read the date being 1966.

However, it is still disturbing that convicted criminals were considered better than unmarried mothers with no criminal record.

No wonder they wanted the adoptions closed.

How many children were abused by convicted criminal adopters?

One of my friends was - and the social worker refused to take her out of that home because "social workers don't make mistakes" and "all adopters are saints" attitude - so they left her there to be abused for years on end.

She would have been better off if they had let her mother keep her.

Ungrateful Little Bastard November 29, 2007 at 8:04 AM  

Cathy that's my fault, I think I should make the dates bigger as I post these.

I'm so sorry for your friend. I've heard similar stories.

h2o girl November 30, 2007 at 3:56 PM  

Wow - this article came out the day I was born, interesting tidbit (to me anyway.)

Thanks for posting these - it's interesting to see how some things have changed and other things have stayed the same.

Ungrateful Little Bastard November 30, 2007 at 6:03 PM  

Libby I've got more of them I'll get posted later on. I find them fascinating and obscene. I know that's an odd combination, but it's the two best adjectives I can come up with. Especially the ones around the time I was born. I can't imagine though seeing one come out with my date of birth, if I did, that would feel really weird.

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