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Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker

Once your home study is complete and you express an interest in a particular child, you will have an opportunity to talk in-depth with the child's caseworkers and, possibly, others 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 that child.

The questions you ask and the information you receive will depend to some degree on the child's age. With an infant, the birth parents' health history, particularly the birth mother's prenatal history, will be most important. With an older child, you will be seeking more comprehensive information (including social, developmental, educational, and mental health histories). If the child has been in foster care, the questions you ask may be much more complex.

Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker: Child's Background Information

Of course you're going to want to know as much about a child as possible before making the decision to adopt, including the child's background. As you learn more about a child's history, it's important to keep the following questions in mind:

  • What would a child with this history believe about him/herself?
  • What would a child with this history believe about parents/caretakers/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 particular child (e.g., medical knowledge or skills, accessible housing, special cultural or parenting training)?

You should seek assistance in interpreting this information by speaking with doctors, mental health professionals, education professionals, and parents who have adopted children with similar needs and issues.

Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker: Family History

You want to obtain as much as you can about the family and social history of the birth family. Just as important as what is included, will be questions about what is missing. Be sure to ask where you can obtain more information. You may be able to talk to teachers, ministers, social workers, or other persons who have been in contact with the child.

  • 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 pictures 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 known about the educational background of the birth parents and the child's siblings?
  • What are the special skills, abilities, talents, or interests of birth parents and family members?
  • Are there letters, pictures, videotapes, and gifts from the birth family?

Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker: Medical History

In addition to the family history of the child, you want to ask about the birth parents' medical history, especially if they know of any heriditary conditions or diseases. Again, be sure to aks where you may obtain additional information about the family medical history.

  • Is there a family history of drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Is there a family history of mental illness or other genetic conditions, or predispositions to diseases such as diabetes or heart disease?
  • What was the age and cause of death of close relatives in the birth family?
  • What is known about the birth parents' developmental history-physically, emotionally, cognitively, including language development?
  • What was the birth mother's health like during pregnancy, and what was the health of each parent at the time of the child's birth?
  • What prenatal care did the child receive, and what was his or her condition at birth?
  • When did he or she achieve developmental milestones, and have there been any developmental assessments reflecting 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?
  • What is the child's HIV status?

Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker: Social and Placement History

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

  • Why did the birth parents make an adoption plan for the child, or why was the child removed from his or her birth family?
  • Did the child suffer any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect? At what point in the child's life did he or she experience these traumas? How often? By whom?
  • 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 his or her placements? What does the child believe about why he or she was placed or moved from one placement to another? (The child's belief may or may not be accurate, but it is important to understand a child's perception of his or her placement history.)
  • What are the past and existing relationships in the child's life with people he or she has regularly lived with or visited (e.g., siblings, birth parents, foster parents, orphanage workers, teachers, therapists, 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?

Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker: Education History

Depending on the age of the child, questions should be asked about the child's developmental abilities. 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. Keep in mind that children develop differently, so just because a certain milestone has not been met, does not indicate problems, but may engender 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 his or her performance at school?
  • Are there significant events (early separations, multiple caretakers, abuse/neglect) in the child's life that could affect his or her capacity to relate to a new family?
  • What are the child's strengths?
  • What are the child's special interests, talents, and/or hobbies?

Questions to Ask Child's Caseworker

When it comes to adoption, especially first-time adoptions, there are seemingly endless questions about the process and how to go about finding a child to bring into your family. The questions above are a good starting point, but perhaps the strongest resource available to you is an attorney. Contact a family law attorney today to receive guidance through the adoption process in your state and to have an advocate as you navigate the process.

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