Monday, June 28, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Culture of Gladney

This week was quite eventful at Gladney! On Wednesday the office hosted a fabulous baby shower for an employee. Everyone put so much thought and care in to making it a picture-perfect shower. People made the most beautiful decorations, a delicious cake and enough food to feed the whole office. Gladney’s culture is very person-focused and really builds a supportive work community and recognizes the importance and value of each employee. It was so sweet to see everyone come together to welcome the new baby.

Another Gladney tradition is getting a group together to go out to lunch for each employee’s birthday. Today, Gladney’s president, Frank Garrott joined us for lunch. I love the relaxed atmosphere that exists across departments and across rank. Everyone is here to support each other and to work toward bringing children into loving families.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why Working At Gladney Is Awesome

This week I had the chance to take part in a variety of the aspects that makes Gladney a wonderful and successful agency. On Tuesday I got to attend a court hearing with Heidi Bruegel Cox. The hearing concerned a family who was doing a CPS adoption through Gladney of 5 year-old and 7 year-old brothers. Three months after the boys had been placed in their home, the parents felt that the aggressive nature of the older child posed a threat to the younger child and felt that for the safety of both children, it would be best to adopt only the younger child at this time. CPS removed the children from the home once the request for separation was made. The court hearing was petitioning the adoption of just the younger child at this point. The case has not yet concluded and will continue next month, but I already learned so much from attending the hearing. Both sides of the case do believe they are protecting the best interests of the children and everyone’s hearts are in the right place; there’s just disagreement over what is right and best.

Yesterday I had the chance to serve as a witness to a potential birthfather signing a waiver. It was interesting to learn how that process goes. The birthparent caseworker first talks to him about the adoption process in general and what her role and Gladney’s role is in this case. He is then asked if he would like to see the profile of the adoptive family that the birthmother has chosen. He is also invited to receive pictures and letters throughout the baby’s childhood. Then the caseworker goes over his and his family’s medical and psychological histories. That way, the adoptive family will be able to provide the child’s doctors with insight into the child’s biological medical history. Finally, he is sworn into oath by the caseworker (who is a notary public) and reviews the waiver for accuracy and asks any questions he has. He signs the waiver in front of two witnesses and it is notarized.

Following witnessing a birthfather sign his waiver, I got to observe a birthmother sign her relinquishment documents. In this case, her deposition was taken by a court reporter and she was also sworn into oath. She was reassured that she does not have to go through with this relinquishment today and may wait or choose to parent. She is asked if she has friend and family support in her adoption plan and asked if she chose to parent would she have support in that decision as well. The birthmother provides a written statement as to why she believes that the adoption plan is in the best interest of the baby and finally signs the relinquishment documents. It was a very emotion-filled event. It was wonderful to see what a thoughtful and bright young lady she is.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Yesterday I had the chance to attend the monthly staff meeting and learn more about Gladney – both about its internal traditions and about where the organization stands. The staff meeting had several cute traditions – they announced the birthdays and anniversaries this month at Gladney; they had cake to celebrate the birthdays; and they read aloud the “stars” of the month. Gladney seems to go above-and-beyond in building an internal community and making it an enjoyable work environment.

It was also interesting to hear Frank Garrott (Gladney’s President and CEO) give an update on where Gladney stands financially this month. He talked about development plans as well as a future endowment campaign. It will be exciting to see how Gladney grows.

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Day at Gladney

After working at Gladney for little over an hour I have already learned quite a bit. I was able to read through The Gladney Toy Story, and read about the process parents who are looking to adopt go through. The beginning highlights on Domestic Adoption Programs, Services for Birth Mothers, Intercountry Adoption Programs, and Hague Accreditation. The idea of this packet is to help make the process of adoption easy and understandable for parents hoping to adopt. The same concept is put together in a packet for mothers looking to put their children up for adoption.

I also had the oppurtunity to read though the Style Guide and Reference packet. This packet shows how different images and templates are evaluated and placed together.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Adoption Review Committee

This week I went to Austin with Heidi Bruegel Cox for a two-day meeting of the Adoption Review Committee, which was appointed by the governor. The Committee is charged with identifying barriers to adopting out of foster care and creating legislative proposals to overcome those obstacles so that children in the foster care system can find permanency more quickly. On Wednesday the Committee heard testimony from individuals and families who had fostered or sought to adopt children from CPS (Child Protective Services) but felt that CPS created barriers to the adoption that was damaging to their family and to the children. A common theme throughout their testimonies was that the current foster care reimbursement system disincentivizes adoption. Parents who had been fostering medically fragile children – some of whom suffered from degenerative conditions that weaken and deteriorate their bodies and who required treatment from multiple specialists – find themselves financially unable to adopt the children they have fostered since birth because they would lose the foster care reimbursements that help fund the life-saving treatments for the children they love.

Families also touched upon the difficulty they had receiving responses from CPS on their inquiries about adopting children. One woman testifying about her journey to adopt a child from CPS said that she contacted caseworkers on over 30 children who were available to adopt and whom she wanted to adopt. She only heard back on half of the inquiries and often the response came 2-4 months later in the form of an automated response. Many of the children she reached out to try to adopt remained listed on TARE (the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange). Though they needed a family that she was willing to provide, they remained unplaced.

Another theme brought up in testimony was the treatment of sibling groups in foster care. DFPS makes every effort to keep siblings together in foster and adoptive placements – a priority with good intentions, which in many cases is an appropriate course of action. However, families revealed cases in which separating siblings may have been in the best interests of the children and keeping them together prevents each from healing and becoming adopted. A family who fostered two brothers – a five year-old and seven year-old – petitioned to adopt the five year-old. The children’s psychologists had recommended that the children be placed in different homes so that each may heal in a safe environment. The seven year-old posed a physical danger to his younger brother who lived in fear of his older brother. Despite the recommendations to have the siblings separated and the availability of an adoptive placement for the younger sibling, CPS insisted on keeping the siblings together which is delaying or preventing permanency for each child.

The meeting brought to attention many barriers to adopting from foster care. Later this year, the Adoption Review Committee will put forth suggestions to overcome these barriers and move children into permanency more quickly.