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In response to various issues noted by the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman (OFCO) about the cases of brutal child neglect and abuse of the adopted children, the Washington’s governor requested that the OFCO and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Children’s Administration (CA) commence a workgroup for examining these issues. The workgroup was also requested to make necessary recommendations in order to enhance the process of adoption and safeguard children (House Judiciary, 2013). Besides the representatives from the OFCO and DSHS, other committee members included assistant attorneys general, superior judge, adoptive or foster parent, and representatives from adoption agencies among others. In this regard, this paper critically reviews the legislation in order to lobby for its adoption.
Background of HB 1675
The 2011 report of the OFCO indicated a shocking cluster of severe cases of child neglect and abuse that occurs in pre-adoptive or adoptive placements. According to the House Committe on Higher Education (2009), 11 out of the 15 cases described in this report took place in 2011. These child abuse and neglect cases were related to children adopted from the Washington state foster system, foreign nations, foster care systems of other states in the US, and private adoption facilitators or agencies. It was alarming that in all cases child neglect or abuse occurred in homes, which had been approved or inspected by private or public child welfare agencies as suitable adoptive homes for a child (House Judiciary, 2013).
The popular aspects of child neglect or abuse noticed in various cases include: denying the child food, locking the child in a room, dishonoring the child as dishonest, belittling remarks about the child, misstating or exaggerating negative behaviors of the child, performing the emotional and physical abuse, denying a child access to toilets, compelling the child to remain outside the home and segregating the child from the community.
Summary of the HB 1675
The bill can be summarized based on three crucial elements, which include the intent, changes associated with the state oversight of child placing agencies and changes associated with evaluating the prospective adoptive families. In relation to the intent, the Legislature understands that it is extremely crucial that the DSHS develops a descriptive work plan that identifies a period and strategy to execute the reforms. According to the Higher Education Committee (2009), this is specifically critical in ensuring that the majority of the recommendations in the report are implemented. However, the legislature further understands that some of these recommendations need constitutional amendments. As such, in ensuring that these changes do not languish, the Legislature is currently making them (Higher Education Committee, 2009).
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In relation to changes associated with the state oversight of child placing agencies, it is the responsibility of the DSHS secretary to put in place requirements and procedures for tracking, identifying and reporting disruption and dissolution during the child adoption (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). The DSHS secretary is also obligated to establish the factors resulting thereto, including requiring standard reports from child-placing agencies linked to children placed for adoption. HB 1675 also requires that the adoption data cards, which are furnished by the Department of Health (DOH) to every county clerk, be completed and filed in every adoption. These cards must also show whether the adopted child has initially been adopted. According to the Senate Committee (2009), the DOH and DSHS must share this data. The DSHS integrates this data, when reporting and tracking the adoption dissolution and disruption.
In relation to changes associated with evaluating prospective adoptive families, the bill requires that changes are made to the qualifications for people conducting adoption home studies and post placement reports (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). According to the Judiciary Committe (2013), such individuals must be in possession of a master’s degree in social work or associated field with an experience of one year in social work. Individuals having a bachelor’s degree with an experience of two years in social work are also deemed qualified to perform adoption home studies.
The court is no longer allowed to approve an individual, who is not fulfilling these experiential or educational requirements. The inquiry and study needed for the pre-placement report, concerning the suitability of the prospective adoptive parent, need to include an examination of the punishment and disciplinary practices and philosophies of the prospective adoptive parent, besides the areas of inquiry, which are already required, like family life, home environment, facilities and resources. Alternatively, the post-placement report needs to contain all available information concerning punishment and disciplinary practices, besides the present information requirements like mental and physical condition of the child, family life, home environment, health facilities and resources. The bill also requires that the pre-placement reports are completed and filed in the same way the pre-placement reports were completed (House Judiciary, 2013).
Importance of the Bill
According to Senate Committee (2009), the motion for this bill was the report on the abuse of adopted children. This report focused on what happened to the 15 victimized children. Two out of the fifteen children died. Four were abused sexually, and there were five other cases of abuse, in which food was withheld to act as a form of punishment resulting to the judgment of serious malnourishment (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). A significant number of these adoptive parents faced the prosecution. According to the House Committe on Higher Education (2009), there is no responsibility for the state, once a child has been adopted, unless things go bad. One of the major points of this bill was to ensure that the placement was right, prior to the occurrence of adoption. The collection of data goes a long way to enable the comprehension of how many, where and what things went wrong. According to House Committe on Higher Education (2009), there is no new report obligation; instead, the reporting is accomplished by the OFCO’s annual report.
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HB 1675 includes some small steps to assure the process of the child adoption is thorough (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). In addition, these small steps assure that the adoptions of children are successful and safe. Inquiring in relation to the planned approach to punishment and discipline will put this on the radar for a potential parent to consider before adoption. The bill also gives social workers an opportunity to know if the parent has given this thought. It is essential to see a red flag in the beginning, if there is any. According to the Higher Education Committee (2009), there is a demand for more adoptive parents. In addition, there must be the apprehension for the well-being and safety of the adopted child. This can only be achieved via the legal provisions of HB 1675. No child coming out of the system is fully free of trauma. According to the Senate Committe (2009), there will be challenges associated with raising any child. As such, the bill takes this into account in advance. For instance, in 2012, there was a considerably upsetting spike in the abuse of the adopted children that included starvation, sexual abuse, locking in a closet and beating among others. This bill deals with some of these abuses (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). Besides this, few amendments can be made immediately, though they will imply that there will be more amendments in future. The Ethiopian Community Seattle is one such community, expecting significant amendments in future. This is because these amendments do not do much to prevent the abuses.
The aim of this bill has a strong support from the OFCO, though the agency remains neutral on a particular legislation (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). Understanding the attitude toward the punishment and discipline is crucial in making the right adoptive march. For example, a child aged 12 years, who is in the foster system due to the physical abuse, should not be placed with parents, who strongly propose the corporal punishment. This is because it might not result in a successful adoptive match. According to the Judiciary Committee (2013), data concerning disrupted and failed adoptions is required. In fact, both the reasons and numbers of failed and disrupted adoptions need to be known. HB 1675 will enable the concerned bodies dealing with the child adoption to know all the reasons and numbers of failed and disrupted adoptions. The bill achieves this via the amendment of the DOH data card and assigning the DSHS to track disruptions. According to the House Committe on Higher Education (2009), the DSHS is uniquely positioned to be capable of doing this, since it already has a direct involvement with the adoptions of foster children. The House Committe on Higher Education (2009) also mentioned that the unique position of the DSHS arises from the fact that it has oversight of the private placement agency. However, HB 1675 requires that all pre-placement reports, whether incomplete or complete, are filed. The OFCO welcomes the reporting obligation as fully consistent with its mission. Despite HB 1675 not addressing all the recommendations, many of these recommendations seem not to require any legislative effort.
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Ways of Bettering HB 1675
The various ways, through which the legislation can be made better, can be categorized based on state supervision of child placement agencies, evaluating potential adoptive parents, and post adoption and training support services.
The first way, in relation to the state control of child placement agencies, will be strengthening those agencies that provide adoption services to be ordaining administrative rules that are concordant with the federal laws and regulations and The Hague Convention (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). The Departments will have to distribute and develop a list of essential concerns regarding troubled adoptions. In addition, the adoption should also establish a process of tracking the adoption dissolution and disruption.
The second way, in which HB 1675 deals with adoption problem in relation to evaluating future adoptive parents, will be strengthening the qualifications for people performing adoption home studies and post-placement reports (Higher Education Committee, 2009). HB 1675 has significantly improved the requirements for home studies. In addition, it will also establish necessary procedures, ensuring that all the home studies are recorded or filed. According to the Higher Education Committee (2009), Child Adoption (CA) should establish an internal committee in order to make decisions for dependent children.
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The third way, in which HB deals with the problem in relation to training and post-adoption services, will be improving the preparation and training for the prospective adoptive parents. It will achieve this via creating minimum training requirements for child placing staff and providing training to professionals, who are indirectly or directly involved with the process of adoption. According to Higher Education Committee (2009), HB 1675 also improves support services for adoptive families.
Progression of HB 1675
It is also essential to note that the bill has been undergoing various amendments. On 5 February, 2013, the first reading of the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). This was the initial introduction of the bill. On February 20, 2013, the public hearing and executive action were taken in the House Committee on Higher Education. The executive action was taken on February 21. The bill was passed to Rules Committee for the second reading on 22 February, 2013. The Rules Committee placed the bill on the second reading on 5 March, 2013. One day later, the substitution occurred. The substitutions involved adopting floor amendments and suspending the rules. It was placed on the third reading (House Committe on Higher Education, 2009). The bill passed with 90 yeas against 7 nays. On March 8, 2013, the bill was received in the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. The most recent event about the bill was on March 21, 2013, which was a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Human Services and Corrections.
The 2011 report of the OFCO indicated a shocking cluster of severe cases of child neglect and abuse that occurs in pre-adoptive or adoptive placements. HB 1675 can be summarized based on three crucial elements, which include the intent, changes associated with state oversight of child placing agencies and changes associated with evaluating the prospective adoptive families. In relation to the intent, the Legislature understands that it is extremely crucial that the DSHS develop a descriptive work plan that identifies a period and strategy to execute the reforms. The motion for this bill was the report on the abuse of the adopted children. HB 1675 includes some small steps to assure the process of the child adoption is thorough. The aim of this bill has a strong support from the OFCO, though the agency remains neutral on a particular legislation. Understanding the attitude toward the punishment and discipline is pivotal in making the right adoptive march. The various ways, through which the legislation can be made better, can be categorized based on state administration of child placement agencies, evaluating potential adoptive families and post adoption and training support services.