A home for every child Adoption delays: Slow bureaucracy leaves foster children in limbo.

November 10, 1995

IF ANYONE needs proof that government makes a poor

parent, ask some of the kids who have been shuttled through the foster care system. One of the biggest problems these children face is the lack of a sense of urgency in resolving their cases.

As things stand now, foster children who cannot return to their biological families can wait years for a permanent home. But such a regimen is tough on children; as time passes, they become less attractive to potential adoptive parents, particularly when they bring with them troubled histories.

Plenty of Maryland families are willing to open their hearts to children in foster care. But the older the child, the harder it can be for an adoption to work smoothly. A 9-year-old bed-wetter with emotional problems is a far more daunting prospect than a 4-year-old with the same description. Bureaucratic delays exacerbate these problems for kids in limbo.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is simply convincing the people in the system that time counts, that giving each foster child a permanent home is urgent business. The "system" includes both the executive and judicial branches. Caseworkers and officials in human services departments around the state can't hurry up a case if they can't get a judicial hearing to terminate parental rights or resolve other legal matters. It is important for Gov. Parris N. Glendening to send a message through the executive branch that finding a permanent home for foster children is an urgent matter. It is equally important for Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy to engender the same attitude within the judicial system.

There are few things sadder than children left adrift in the world. Foster care can give a child a shelter, but it can't provide the stability children need. Maryland has many of the pieces in place that could cut down on the time children spend in foster care limbo. What it needs now is the political will to make it all work.

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