The New Zealand fostering system is grossly overloaded.
There are three main reasons for this;
Firstly, most foster kids come from the “underclass“. The “underclass” is now in its third generation and is expanding as the grandchildren of the first Domestic Purpose Beneficiaries reach maturity.
Secondly, these children are suffering ever worsening levels of abuse. This is turning more and more of them into nightmares to deal with. Foster parents are completely forbidden to use physical discipline on their charges. Many kids are being taught their “rights” by their social workers and are almost impossible to manage. Consequently many experienced and dedicated foster carers are taking fewer children or leaving fostering entirely.
Thirdly, Child Youth and Family has a policy of keeping children with their biological families as much as possible. Fair enough you say? In practice this means that CYFS will try to adopt children out, only as a last resort. Prospective birth mothers are steered towards fostering rather than adoption. Prospective adoptive parents are urged to try long term fostering instead.
The consequences of all this is that there are fewer than 100 Kiwi to Kiwi adoptions per year (it was once 4,000) and many people who really want to adopt are fostering instead.
Sometimes this works out well, sometimes it doesn’t.
My main criticism, is that fostering is to adoption as “living together” is to marriage. On average-all other things being equal-the level of commitment isn’t quite the same.
I’ll give you an example I came across recently;
A couple we know well (they fostered our children before we adopted them)have fostered several children, mostly in long term or semi-permanent placements.
They can’t adopt kids, as much as they would like to, because they are both female.
Four or five years ago they fostered a little boy. The wee lad had very mild cerebral palsy.
A couple offered to take the lad, then two years old, into long term foster care. This was regarded as a permanent placement-the next best thing to full adoption.
After four years in “permanent” care, the wee boy was diagnosed with Attention Deficit syndrome. This was too much. The couple told the boy “your journey with us has ended” and took him back to Child Youth and Family.
He is now back with our friends in a trial placement. They now have a little six year old boy, walking around their house, saying things like “why doesn’t Daddy want me anymore“
Incredibly, his former “Mum and Dad” wanted to maintain contact and even have him stay over, for the odd weekend.
To their credit, CYFS told them that as far as they were concerned they were “dead” to that boy.
Would this have happened had the boy been adopted? Possibly, but certainly less likely.
Adoption as an option for children has very much fallen by the wayside in NZ.
There is no shortage of “unwanted” babies. There is no shortage of prospective adoptive parents. Adoptions in NZ are open, so the birth family can still have contact with the child.
The problem is government policy that promotes fostering while barring social workers from promoting adoption at all. This enormously distorted the “market“, producing an unsatisfied demand for adoptions and a severely overloaded fostering system.
Clearly the current policy emphasis is not working.
If CYFS were allowed to change their policies and many of the current restrictions around adoption were relaxed, we would see an increase in adoption and a lowering of pressure on foster carers.
I think this would be a good thing for all concerned-do you?