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Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker

Your home study is complete, and you have expressed an interest in a particular child. Now that you have finished the home study process, you can speak in-depth with the child's caseworkers as well as other important people in the child's life. Asking questions, and listening carefully to the responses, will help you better understand what it would be like to live with this child before the finalization of the adoption.

The questions you ask and the information you receive will depend on the child's age. For infants, the birth mother's prenatal history is crucial. With an older child, you will seek more comprehensive information. This may include social, developmental, educational, and mental health histories.

The questions asked may also depend on the type of child and the type of adoption, such as an international adoption or a private adoption. The questions you ask for children in foster care are likely more complex because there might be detailed information available about why the foster child came to be placed in the system.

See below for frequently asked questions (FAQs) prospective adoptive parents ask a child's caseworker.

Child's Background Information

Just like the background checks that the state law requires for adoptive parents, it's essential to know about the child's upbringing and history. The adoption services may vary. But any adoption agency (public or private agency) asks for information about the people who want to adopt. And you should know information about the child as well. Of course, you'll need to learn as much about a child as possible before adopting, including the child's background.

As you learn more about a child's history, it's critical to keep the following questions in mind:

  • What beliefs and views about self might this child have?
  • What would a child with this history believe about parents/caregivers/the world?
  • What types of behaviors should I expect from a child with this history?
  • What special skills, abilities, or resources might be necessary to parent this child? (e.g., medical knowledge or skills, accessible housing, special cultural or parenting training)?

Get help with interpreting the information by talking to the following:

  • Doctors
  • Mental health professionals
  • Education professionals
  • Adoptive parents with children with similar issues

Family History

You want to obtain as much information as you can about the family and social history of the birth family. Questions about what is missing are just as important. Be sure to ask where you can obtain more information. You may be able to talk to teachers, ministers, and social workers.

  • What is the birth family's racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious background?
  • What is the general physical description of the child's birth parents, siblings, and other close relatives?
  • Are there pictures? (Attempt to get photos of a child's birth parents and relatives whenever possible because this will enable you to answer the questions frequently asked by adopted children: "What did my birth parents look like?" or "Who do I look like?")
  • What is the educational background of the birth parents and the child's siblings?
  • What are the unique skills, abilities, talents, or interests of the birth parents and family members?
  • Are there letters, pictures, videos, and gifts from the birth family?

Medical History

In addition to the child's family history, you'll want to ask about the birth parents' medical history, especially if they know of any hereditary conditions or diseases. Again, find out where you may obtain additional information about the family's medical history.

  • Is there a family history of drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Is there a family history of mental illness, other genetic conditions, or predispositions to diabetes or heart disease?
  • What were the age and causes of death of close relatives in the birth family?
  • What is known about the birth parents' developmental history-physically, emotionally, and cognitively, including language development?
  • What was the birth mother's health like during pregnancy, and what was the health of each parent like at the time of the child's birth?
  • What prenatal care did the child receive, and what was their condition at delivery?
  • When did they achieve developmental milestones, and have any developmental assessments reflected deviation from typical development?
  • Are there prior medical, dental, psychological, or psychiatric examinations and/or diagnoses for this child?
  • Are there records of any immunizations and/or health care received while the child was in out-of-home care?
  • What is the child's current need for medical, dental, developmental, psychological, or psychiatric care?
  • Does the child receive any benefits such as SSI or Medicaid due to illness?
  • What is the child's HIV status?

Social and Placement History

You will also want to ask questions about the needs of the child and social and emotional well-being of the child. The following questions will go a long way in determining how well-adjusted the child is and may help you decide what additional counseling or family services the child may need. The caseworker may give you a referral.

  • Why did the birth parents make an adoption plan for the child, or why was the child removed from their birth family? Did the parents voluntarily terminate their parental rights?
  • Did the child suffer any child abuse? Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect? At what point in the child's life did they experience these traumas? How often? By whom? Are there any Child Welfare System reports?
  • How many placements did the child have, and where (e.g., relative placements, foster homes, orphanages, residential treatment facilities, hospitals)? What were the reasons for placements or re-placements? What does the child remember about their placements? What does the child believe about why they were placed or moved from one placement to another? (The child's belief may or may not be accurate, but it is essential to understand their perception of their placement history).
  • What are the past and existing relationships in the child's life with people they have regularly lived with or visited (e.g., siblings, birth parents, foster parents, orphanage workers, teachers, therapists, and nurses)? How has the child responded to visits with these persons in the past? Is future contact planned with any of these persons? How often? Who is responsible for seeing that it happens? How will this work post-adoption?

Education History

Depending on the child's age, you can ask about their developmental abilities or if they have any "special needs." There are developmental milestones for children at each stage of their lives. Learn about these milestones and ask the child's caseworker whether or not the child has met these milestones. Children develop differently. So, just because a child did not meet a particular milestone does not necessarily indicate a disability is present but may prompt more questions.

  • What are the results of any educational testing, and are there any special educational needs?
  • Where is the child currently enrolled, and what is their performance at school?
  • Where is the child currently enrolled in daycare, childcare, or preschool? What is their performance like in school or daycare?
  • Are there significant events (early separations, multiple caretakers, abuse/neglect) in the child's life that could affect their capacity to relate to a new family? Is there anything that will impact their interaction with their adoptive family?
  • What are the child's strengths?
  • What are the child's special interests, talents, and/or hobbies?

Additional Adoption Questions? An Attorney May Be Able to Help

There are seemingly endless questions about the adoption process and how to find an adoptive placement. You can receive adoption assistance from support groups and social services. The questions above are a good starting point, but perhaps an attorney is the most vital resource available. Contact a family law attorney today to receive guidance through the adoption process in your state and advocacy as you navigate the process.

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