Auditor Of Public Accounts
Kentucky Should Make Adoption a Higher Priority
State Auditor Crit Luallen released today an audit of Kentucky’s adoption process. The performance audit found that the time between when a child was classified as having a goal of adoption and actually being adopted was over 22 months. After the termination of parental rights, final adoption takes almost another year, even though 85% of the adoptions were by the children’s foster parents. Children are staying in state custody an average of over three years.
“The Commonwealth has an interest in making adoptions a favorable choice for Kentucky families. The audit provides detailed county-by-county data that should assist policy makers in analyzing where improvements in the system are most necessary. There are wide-ranging differences from each county.” State Auditor Crit Luallen said.
Kentucky has done a good job removing financial barriers to adoption by making adoption assistance payments equal to foster care payments. However, barriers still exist. Studies show that the first informational call prospective parents make is key to them continuing the process. Kentucky, like many other states, does not have a centralized location with staff dedicated solely to the function of answering calls and guiding citizens through the process.
Among the twelve recommendations, the audit calls for a wide-ranging public awareness campaign to inform the public that children need homes. The state should work with private adoption agencies so that children in state custody can come to the attention of people interested in adoption. The public awareness program should promote a centralized toll free phone number that will connect prospective parents with advocates who will encourage and assist them through the adoption process.
The audit also recommends that Kentucky consider the formation of a birth father registry. There have been incidents where biological fathers prevent adoptions even though they are not involved in the child’s life. Twenty-three states have registries, requiring fathers to show evidence of their desire to parent a child prior to having legal standing to prevent later petitions for adoption. The registry allows men, not married to the mother of a child, to register their paternity so that they will be notified as to any legal proceedings involving the child. The court will then send a notice of adoption to the father. If the father chooses not to place his name on the registry he will not be a party to the adoption.
“A study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute showed that less than half of the persons requesting adoption information actually go forward and apply to become adoptive parents. The audit concludes that Kentucky should develop specialized recruitment efforts to make the most of these initial contacts. Kentucky should publicize a single adoption hotline number statewide and should conduct a statewide public awareness campaign to recruit adoptive parents and to make those interested aware of their options. In addition, Kentucky should expand the family court system throughout the state. ” Ms. Luallen added.
The report includes other recommendations that would improve the efficiency of the adoption process. The performance audit began over a year ago, not in response to a series of published reports about the adoption of children in state care, but to determine what Kentucky can do to alleviate barriers to adoption.
NOTE: Ms. Luallen, Ellen Hesen, and Joe Meyer will testify about this report to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services Adoption Blue Ribbon Panel today at 1:30 PM in Room 327 of the Kentucky State Capitol.