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The adoption of an older youth always goes better with clear, honest communication with the agency and staff. Here are 4 areas with a total of 30 questions you might consider asking if you are a prospective adopting parent.  We recognize that this list is not exhaustive or complete. Also note that not all questions might be answered, depending on your state or jurisdiction. Finally, we urge prospective parents to generate their own questions that mirrors their own communities, capabilities and interests.

Questions about Family History

  1. We’d like to know about the biological parents and why their parental rights were terminated.
  2. Is it possible to get the medical and psychiatric history of the parents?
  3. Where are the biological parents now?
  4. Is there any expectation of contact between the youth and any member of the biological family? If so, please let us know.
  5. Does the youth have any relationship with the birth parents? Relationships with any other birth family relatives?
  6. Does the youth have brothers and sisters? Have they been adopted? How close is the youth to these siblings/what is their relationship?

Questions about Adoption History and Adoption Future

  1. Why isn’t this youth already adopted? Were there factors that interrupted or stopped previous attempts and what were they? If there have been no previous adoptions considered, why?
  2. Does this youth want to be adopted? If so, why? If not, why?
  3. If the youth doesn’t match our race or ethnicity, how might they feel about that?

Questions about the Youth: Medical, Psychiatric, and Trauma History

  1. We will need to read the youth’s entire case file, not just a summary. When can we arrange that?
  2. Separately, we would like a list of the youth’s placement history including the length of each placement and when/why the placement didn’t last.
  3. Was this youth ever exposed to drug or alcohol prenatally? Was there exposure while in the care of a parent, other adult, or other youth?
  4. Was this youth neglected or abandoned prior to entering foster care? What were the circumstances? How long did this last?
  5. Was this youth abused prior to entering foster care? If so, what kind?
  6. Has the youth been diagnosed with any psychiatric disorder? Who made this diagnosis? We’d like to review the documentation on any diagnoses.
  7. Is the youth taking any medication? If so, what medication, for what ailment, and for how long? Prior to a finalized adoption we would like the opportunity to candidly discuss past and existing drug protocols with the prescribing physician.
  8. Is the youth current on immunizations and overall health care, including dental check-ups?
  9. Are there any current behavioral or health concerns for this youth? Who has offered these concerns and may we talk with them? Are these concerns documented and if so when can we read them?
  10. Is the youth in therapy? If so, for how long, with what types, and for what presenting issues?
  11. Has this youth ever been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or any other type of attachment disorder? If so, what has been done to address it?
  12. Has the youth been around dogs or cats? Are there any safety concerns about pets?
  13. Has the youth ever been associated with fire-starting? If so, what interventions have taken place?

Questions about the Youth: Educational and Social

  1. May we speak with the youth’s current foster parents or caregivers? We’d like their insights on the youth.
  2. How is the youth doing in school? Has the youth’s school placement changed over the past 5 years?
  3. Describe the youth’s friendships. Are they close? Age-appropriate?
  4. Has the youth been sexually active? What type of behaviors have occurred and when as the last of these?
  5. Has the youth made spiritual or faith decisions we should know about? What are they?
  6. Are there pictures, mementos, tapes, or gifts from the birth family we can see?
  7. What are the youth’s talents, interests and hobbies?
  8. What is the youth’s current reading level?

 

 

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Dr. Chris Downs has devoted much of his professional career to improving services and outcomes for older, at-risk youth. Chris is President of The Downs Group LLC, based in Seattle and has the pleasure of working with many talented professionals in child welfare and allied areas including his company Associates.