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Truth in Adoption

February 11, 2011 permalink

In low-bidder adoptions, the kind where the adoption agency has to offer incentives or compensation to get rid of a hard-to-place child, the agency often withholds negative information from the prospective adopters. A proposed law in Nebraska would allow the adopters to look at the entire case file.



Legislature advances bill to give case file information to adoptive parents

Gwen Howard
Sen. Gwen Howard

The mother of four foster children was aware the child she and her husband adopted in July 2008 had cerebral palsy and was mildly mentally handicapped.

They were aware she may have been sexually touched inappropriately. But a year or so after the adoption, they learned the abuse was much worse -- that the girl's biological mother may have been paid to allow older men to have sexual contact with her.

Denise Powell believes that if she had been able to read her daughter's case file, she could have gotten her the help she was not able to find when serious problems surfaced.

In an effort to help other adoptive parents avoid these barriers, she supports a bill advanced Thursday by state senators to second reading.

The bill (LB94) would ensure that parents petitioning to adopt a state ward have all the information they need by being allowed to read, if they so choose, all information allowed by law in the child's case file.

Powell later found out there were notations in her daughter's file about previous diagnoses of reactive attachment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because of the aggressive and sexual behaviors the girl began to exhibit, Powell has to watch her constantly to ensure the family's other children are not harmed.

Powell testified last month in front of the Judiciary Committee that in spite of numerous appeals for services to help their daughter, the family has been unable to get them because they didn't have all the information they needed about her past.

They had looked at the case files of their other three children and knew what to expect, she said. As a result, they were able to get the services they needed.

She knows her experience is not uncommon, she said.

Omaha Sen. Gwen Howard, the bill's introducer, said not knowing what's in a case file can lead to mistrust of the state Department of Health and Human Services and can lead to families seeking to surrender children back into state care.

The bill, as amended, would allow the case file to be available to adopting parents upon written request to HHS.

During debate on the bill, Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton said she has spent a great deal of time talking with foster parents who are given little background on the children they are adopting, and they are not fully prepared -- mentally, financially or emotionally -- for their problems.

The bill advanced from first reading on a 38-0 vote.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or

Source: Lincoln Journal Star