Waiting for someone to love

Melina Humphrey, adoption manager at the Children's Authority. - ROGER JACOB
Melina Humphrey, adoption manager at the Children's Authority. - ROGER JACOB

This is part four of Newsday's Beyond Blood series on different aspects of the adoption story.

Harry Potter, the hero of JK Rowling's book series, was an orphan. He was the boy who lived. He lived through the death of his parents. He lived through the trauma of being separated from the only home he knew, and he lived through sitting in a closet under stairs longing for a family who loved him. He hoped and dreamed that his godfather Sirius Black would adopt him. But he had to settle for the cold home of the Dursleys until the day he went off to school to discover his full identity as a wizard.

While children in community homes will not have the same experience as Harry, some, like him, wait for years for someone to love.

The Children's Authority has 55 applications from people who want to adopt a child. But many stay on a waiting list for years because they only want to adopt babies.

Melina Humphrey, adoptions manager at the Children's Authority, told Newsday it constantly asks people to raise the age of the child they are willing to adopt, so the authority can match a child to a home. Some people have opted to raise the age from zero to four or five, or from five to ten.
The authority has even asked potential parents to include teenagers, but many do not want teens because the potential parents believe teenagers are already set in their ways and have behavioural problems.

"We ask people to think about when you're a teenager. You know, all you really need is love and guidance and support. But we don't have people willingly expressing the desire for teenagers. The oldest we've been able to get somebody to go up to right now is about ten."

However, prospective parents expecting to get babies right after birth will not be able to.

How to give a child up for adoption

A baby can't be adopted the minute he or she is born. The authority must wait six weeks before
the parents can relinquish custody. This is to give them time to think about whether they want to give up the child and to account for potential post-partum depression and other issues that may arise after the baby is born.

If a pregnant woman would like to put her child up for adoption she can walk in to the authority to speak to a case worker.

"People normally come to us before they give birth. We meet with them, and when they are almost ready to give birth, then we give them a letter to go to the hospital. The hospital would then be informed that they want to give up the child for adoption.

"But it's not at that time that they are matching. The child has to be free first, and also it is critical to note that we do not take consent from parents until six weeks after the birth of the child."

The child is put in foster care and when the six weeks has passed, the authority contacts the birth mother and father to give consent. Only then can the authority apply for the child to be freed.

A mother cannot go to the authority to relinquish parental rights to the child without consent from the father. The authority cannot proceed with an adoption with only her consent. If the father is not in the mother's life, she has to provide contact information – his phone number and address – so the authority can contact him. If she is uncertain who the father is, the authority asks for a list of possible fathers and their contact details. Sometimes paternity tests are done to determine the biological father. If the woman says the father is dead, she must provide the name, and the authority contacts the registrar general for his death certificate.

Humphrey said the authority has to do due diligence to ensure someone's parental rights is not taken away, otherwise they could end up in court.

Freeing the children

There is an assumption that children in homes are orphans and are available for adoption. In fact, many of those children have been removed by the State. They are put in homes for safety by the court, or parents drop them off if they can't provide for them.

In foster care, children usually get the attention of the authority if they experience abuse or other detrimental issues. But they are put in foster care with the hope of reintegration with their families.

The authority is currently on a drive to free children in the children's home and foster care system so they will be eligible for adoption.

"The authority is trying to locate relatives and families of these children so we could determine if it is that these children could be potential candidates. Once we find the parents to let them know, the authority will try to get parental consent from them and put their children up for adoption."

Humphrey said some parents may not be willing to relinquish their parental rights.

"We are trying to locate parents or relatives, anybody concerning these children, so we can make an application to the court."

Once the child is freed, the authority can match the child with somebody on the waiting list.

"Right now we are in the second phase of that project. (In) the first phase, we were gathering the names of the children and all the information that we can. Now we are in the second phase, where we are actually doing the groundwork and the social inquiries to look for parents and relatives," she said.

The court makes an order to free a child for adoption.

"With that plan, the aim would be to have to ensure that all children have a permanent home, as opposed to spending their whole life in community homes, or spending all their teens, or even five or four years in foster care.

"We are trying to ensure that all children are adopted and get that permanent home."

A new home

When a child is adopted that child's birth certificate is sealed by the Registrar General, and no one has access to it until the child turns 18. If he or she wants to find out about their birth parents, they then have to go to the court to apply to unseal their original birth certificate. The Registrar General will then make a new certificate with the parent's name or names.

Keep posted to Newsday as the psychological aspect of adoption is discussed.


"Waiting for someone to love"

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