Just sharing this as proof that AJ and I are only a grain of sand in this state's treatment of children in their care. Reading this makes me physically ill. I spoke to the reporter today, and he has been inundated with calls from foster/pre-adoptive parents who have been treated the same. Still, he wants to help me share AJ's story and continue to stir up problems for DCYF, especially as hers was a case that included lying in court testimony and sending her to another state in exchange for money.
I will try to get back here to post more about how our story unfolded and the trauma that was inflicted. I'm still moving slowly through a bog of grief so it does take me a while to actually find the energy to face some things.
August 18, 2013 01:00 AM
BY BOB KERR
Adoption seems such a warm, generous, kind thing to do. It brings certainty to an uncertain life, provides family where there was none.
But even when all the right things seem to be in place — a caring and welcoming family and a child who seems a perfect fit in their home — adoption is not a sure thing. There is a process. There are social workers. There are big chunks of the past — the family’s and the child’s — that come into play. There are questions and questions about questions. There is the need to measure up to standards that are not always clear.
Last month, a boy I will call Jason was taken from his foster home in East Providence by a social worker from the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). He was taken for a doctor’s appointment. He never came back. Other social workers showed up to collect his clothes and belongings.
It was the abrupt end of a nearly two-year relationship that Marc and Maria Dauphinee thought was going to lead to adoption. But they were found unacceptable as adoptive parents. They’re not sure why, especially considering how well Jason seemed to be doing in their care.
“You tell me,” says Marc. “When that child grew so much.”
He talks of the things Jason did while he lived in their home. He made the honor roll at Riverside Middle School. Then he made it again, and again. He took up the trumpet. He played Little League baseball. His medications for what was originally diagnosed as bipolar disorder were being reduced.
They first met through Adoption Rhode Island in September 2011.
“There was an instant connection,” says Marc.
He remembers Jason telling one of the social workers, “I think I just found my new family.”
First, there were visits, then daylong stays, then overnights. In July of last year, Jason moved in. He started school in September and saw his name on the honor roll for the first time ever.
There were questions. There are always questions as a family tries to prove that it is caring enough and doesn’t have any deep, dark secrets that could cause problems. No one should consider adoption without accepting a very thorough, even invasive, examination of their lives. It is incredibly complicated, especially with an older child. The people at DCYF take a very long look at how well a child is faring with a foster family before moving toward adoption. It is, says Stephanie Terry, associate director for child welfare at DCYF, a very fluid situation.
“Things come up,” she says.
Obviously, there are things she cannot discuss when it comes to the decision to deny a seemingly deserving, caring couple the opportunity to adopt.
“We have the utmost respect and admiration for those willing to foster and adopt older children,” says Terry.
“But sometimes, regardless of putting out their best effort, it evolves over time that this is not the best match.”
DCYF does not give up easily on the possibility of a child being adopted, Terry says. But things happen. Questions come up.
There was a question about Maria Dauphinee’s compatibility with Jason. There was a question about whether Jason would get along with Alexander Dauphinee, Marc and Maria’s biological son who is the same age as Jason.
There were also good, positive signs all over the house in East Providence. There were the honor roll, baseball, playing trumpet in a church band, the need for fewer and fewer medications. And there was another thing Marc mentions — Jason’s increasing comfort as a member of the family.
But when they tried to force the issue, hire a lawyer and seek a straight answer on whether they were headed for adoption or not, they say they could never get a yes or no.
Then came the day in July when Jason was picked up for the doctor’s appointment. He didn’t come back. The Dauphinees say they were never told the doctor’s appointment was really the end of their attempt to adopt.
“My wife called me at my office in tears,” says Dauphinee, maintenance director at Laurelmead in Providence. “It’s astounding.”
Again, Terry says there is more to the story of how Jason was removed from the Dauphinees’ home. But she can’t discuss it.
Jason called once after he was taken, and during the conversation, according to Marc, Jason said DCYF workers told him the Dauphinees had never intended to adopt him.
Now, they wonder where he is, how he’s doing. He was a member of their family and now he’s not.
“Being one of those kids, it frightens me,” says Marc.
He was removed from his home when he was 8 and made a ward of the state. He was one of the “night to nighters,” boys in state care who were moved from place to place in what was truly a hideously damaging procedure.
He grew up hard and beat the odds. And he understands better than most what it means for a kid to come in from the cold. He thought he was doing that for Jason.
I first met the Dauphinees in March 2006. They had left their jobs to home school and care for their oldest son, Zachary, who was battling cancer. He had been at it for two years then. There was great support from his school and the community.
Zachary was 10 when he died on the day my column about him appeared in The Providence Journal.
Marc Dauphinee says the experience with Jason has been in some ways equally painful.