'These Kids Are Worth It': Debunking Foster Care Myths

 

Today’s guests: Greg Eubanks, CEO of the World Association for Children and Parents.

 

EPISODE SUMMARY:

The number of kids entering foster care is increasing, but conversely, the number of foster-care homes are decreasing. And many people believe, incorrectly, that the kids in foster care are there because of behavioral problems, or juvenile delinquency. Greg Eubanks, CEO of the World Association for Children and Parents, has a personal and professional connection to foster care. And in this episode, he dispels the myths about foster care, and the kids in foster care: “What I get to see every day is healing, and recovery, and a child find out that they’re worthwhile, and they belong somewhere.” 

 
 

Transcript:

Kristin Kalning In the previous episode of Real Life Adoption, I introduced you to the Mitchells, who adopted a little boy through the foster care system in Washington state. And I also threw out some statistics about the state of foster care in Washington. The numbers are a bit of a moving target, but, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are over 10,000 children in foster care in Washington state. Of that number, about 1,500 are legally available for adoption. The number of kids entering care has increased over the last decade. But conversely, the number of foster homes has decreased. 

That means that every day in our communities, kids are removed from their parents’ homes because it is not safe for them to remain. And many times, they have nowhere to go. So they spend nights in social services offices or hospitals or hotels. In 2018, foster children in Washington State spent over 1,000 nights in offices or hotels.

This crisis -- and it's not hyperbole to call it that -- is not limited to Washington state. This crisis is happening across the country. A one-day snapshot tallied by the federal government in 2015 showed that there were over 427,000 kids in foster care. And though that number is down from where it was a decade ago, the number of children entering care had risen year over year: Up by about 3,000 between 2012 and 2013, another 10,000 in 2014, and almost 15,000 kids in 2015.

So, that's a lot of pretty depressing numbers. But what's even more depressing are the pervasive myths about foster care and the kids in foster care. To help us separate fact from fiction, I've enlisted the help of Greg Eubanks, the CEO of WACAP, the World Association for Children and Parents. It's an adoption agency, the one we used to adopt Peter, my youngest son.

Listeners should know that I joined WACAP’s board of directors in January 2016, after we adopted Peter. So, my opinion about the agency is not an objective one, but it's also based on our family's personal experience with WACAP and its dedicated staff. I joined the board because of WACAP’s reputation as a highly ethical and transparent adoption agency. I joined because of WACAP’s tireless advocacy on behalf of special needs and hard-to-place children all over the world.

But things are changing in the world of international adoption. I'm going to address the state of international adoption in a future episode, but it's relevant to this discussion because on February 7, WACAP announced that it was merging with Holt International Children Services. This merger takes effect on April 1, 2019.

This merger is happening because international adoption is down 80 percent since 2004. 80 percent. And that's not because there are 80 percent fewer people who want to adopt internationally, it's because there are fewer children available to adopt. There are a few reasons for that. Several countries have closed to adoption, ones that used to adopt a lot of kids to the US. Countries like Russia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia, where my oldest son is from. Some countries are doing more to recruit and place children domestically, and that's a good thing.

 

But the other factor driving the steep downturn in international adoption is overregulation. Overregulation drives up costs for agencies, which drives up costs for families. Fewer programs mean fewer kids, and longer wait times. Given these realities, consolidation just makes sense. 

Holt is the largest adoption agency in the U.S., and they've been around since 1954. The merger with Holt will allow the two agencies to share resources and some of the increased costs. And WACAP can continue to work in international adoption, finding homes for hard-to-place children. 

On April 1, Greg will see his title change -- from CEO of WACAP to the head of Holt International's Northwest Branch Office. He will be able to focus on one of his passions: working to find permanency for the children in foster care.

As a graduate student in marriage and family counseling, Greg worked at a residential treatment center for boys in foster care. He says working there changed his whole path. He spent nearly 20 years at Buckner International, a faith-based nonprofit that provides adoption and foster care services and support, among other things. He's built foster care programs from the ground up. 

He also has a personal connection to foster care which sounds a lot better when he explains it so I'm going to switch over now to our interview which I recorded back in January at the WACAP offices in Renton, Washington.

 

Kristin KalningYou also have adoption in your personal life. 

Greg EubanksYes, I do. 

Kristin KalningTalk a little bit about that.

Greg EubanksSo in our family, in our main nuclear family, my wife and I have four children. Three of them are adopted. And kids joined our family on three occasions. We were parents for the first time when we adopted a sibling group. They were at the time, ages 4 and 2. They are now 24 and 22. And after that our biological daughter was born.

Greg EubanksAnd then, several years later, we adopted a young man, aged 23, and an alumni of foster care. I had gotten to meet him when I was volunteering. I was living in Dallas at the time, and I was volunteering for an organization that worked with kids who had aged out of foster care. And I was matched with Simon as a mentor. We had that kind of a relationship for a year when that year was over this organization said, that's it, poof! You can have whatever relationship you want to have. So we continued to hang out. He began to meet the family and after a couple of years of that … so we've known each other for three years. By this point he said: ‘So are you going to adopt me, or what?’ So, In 2014 we adopted a 23-year old. 

Kristin KalningWow, OK. So, foster care is close to your heart.

Greg EubanksAbsolutely.

 Kristin KalningWasn't your intention necessarily, but that's where it’s ended up. 

Greg EubanksIt's where I've ended up because, again, I just see these kids. It's one thing to talk statistics, it's one thing to talk at a high level about the problem. And we should certainly talk about that. But when you begin to meet the children and you realize these are kids in our country, in our state, in our neighborhood who don't have adults they can depend on. 

Greg EubanksAnd, you know, I've been asked a lot throughout my career: ‘How can you do this kind of work day in and day out?’ There are parts of this work I don't think I could do. I don't think I could be an investigator for Child Protective Services. But what I get to see every day is healing, and recovery, and a child find out that they're worthwhile and they belong somewhere. Whether that's back with their biological family -- which is so wonderful to see -- or if it's for a temporary time in a foster family, or through adoption.

 

Kristin KalningOK, let's talk about the statistics a little bit. The number of children in foster care is far less than it was 10 years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It's also increased steadily over the past couple of years. What accounts for that increase over the past couple of years?

 

Greg EubanksWell the most significant reason, as I think most people kind of have a tangential familiarity with, is our opioid crisis. The reason for removal that's had the largest increase over the last couple of years is drug abuse by a parent. And that's the second most frequent circumstance cited for removal. So the first reason I think that it's increased is the drug crisis in our country.

 

Greg EubanksThe second reason though for this increase in my opinion relates to the number one reason cited for removal and it's not what most people would think. The number one reason is neglect. And it's not just number one, it's number one by far. Thirty-six percent of removals are because of drug abuse by parents; 62 percent cite neglect.

 

Greg EubanksSo, what that means is, the state of our society, economy, job availability, livable wages, transportation issues, and a whole host of other social issues contribute. Because I think of these kids and their families and I think of a single parent trying to make it -- working two, maybe three jobs, not having enough money to afford child care.  And so their child is home, after school, a neighbor sees them wandering and they call, which they should. An investigation is done and rather than offering supportive services to that family, the child is removed, and thenservices are offered. Which is good, but it would be better if we could keep them together and offer services.

Kristin KalningOK, and at the same time, the number of foster families available to receive these kids has decreased. What are some reasons for this?

Greg EubanksSo yeah, in Washington it's been interesting. I found an article written by Investigate West back in October of 2016, and they said that Washington has lost one in five foster homes between 2008 and 2015. Twenty percent. I think when you ask people you will hear frustrations on all sides. You will hear frustrations from foster parents about regulation and oversight. You will hear frustrations from state workers, and governmental leaders that talk about an obligation to serve kids without enough resources to do that. 

Greg EubanksIn my mind there's three main reasons. So first of all, I've hinted at this already: I think there are more children in foster care than need to be. That's number one. The second thing is we don't have resources as a society. For whatever reason, we don't feel that it's that important to invest in our children. It's just not a priority. 

Greg EubanksNow, there's some good news here. In the last year, the Family First Prevention Services Act was approved. And that's going to invest around an additional $20 million to help with prevention services. 

Kristin KalningThat's in Washington? 

Greg EubanksThat's the whole federal that's the federal government.

Kristin Kalning$20 million? 

Greg EubanksThat's something. It's not everything. And it's specifically earmarked for those situations where, if we could offer a little bit of prevention services, then we can avoid a removal. 

Kristin KalningPrevention services like what?

Greg EubanksLike job assistance. Like transportation, transportation vouchers. Like parenting help. Imagine if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck. You’re working multiple jobs, doing the best that you can, parenting your kids, whether you're a single parent or you're in a two-parent family. And your child begins to have issues, and you have no resources. You don't have the right health care -- you can't afford it. And so you can't take your child to the therapist, you can't take your child to the pediatrician to ask: ‘What do I do?’ And a lot of times, out of that frustration, problems begin to happen. And so I think, if there's money that can go to help families learn how to address those problems, and deal with those challenges, and work through them, you know, it's money well spent.

Kristin KalningSo that's one reason, too many kids, not enough resources –

 Greg EubanksToo many kids, not enough resource. The third one, in my mind, is awareness. Nobody likes to talk about child abuse. Nobody likes to think about that, particularly in the United States. We don't like to think that this is a problem in our neighborhoods, and I get that. I really do. Child abuse is not a fun topic. It's not something that I like to think about. It's not something that I like to imagine.

Greg EubanksWhen I've met kids, though, and I've had conversations with them, It's their reality, and they will talk about it as if they're talking about the weather. I've had kids say to me: ‘I have to live with this family because my real parents can't afford me.’ I've had kids show me their burn scars just like they're telling me about their favorite superhero. I mean, it's that normal and I don't want to talk about it. And no one likes to hear it.

Greg EubanksSo I think it's really hard to talk about this problem without saying: ‘Yeah, that's a horrible problem and we're in a crisis,’ and all of that stuff. I'm glad we're talking about that, but I think people lack awareness of what role they can play to help solve the problem. It seems too overwhelming. 

Kristin KalningKind of following that …  many people believe that the kids in foster care are irrevocably damaged, that they're in care because of behavioral problems. What's the real truth there?

Greg EubanksThe truth is, neither are correct. Dave Thomas does a study every five years, the last one they did was in 2017 – 

Kristin Kalning-- and he's the founder of Wendy's. 

Greg EubanksYes. Yeah, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. That's where they do this research. And 46 percent of people agree with the statement that children are in foster care because of juvenile delinquency. And it's just not true. 

Greg EubanksChildren are in care for their protection. Children are in care because their needs aren't being met by their family of origin. They're not in care because they're juvenile delinquents. They're not in care because they're a behavioral problem, and they're not in care because … in most the vast majority of cases they're not in care because their biological parents are horrible, and evil, and monsters. Now there are cases of that. 

Greg EubanksBut like I said: 62 percent is neglect. We can very easily talk down that statistic. So that's number one. They're not in care because they are the problem. They are in care because they are the victim, and they need to be protected. They need to be kept safe. They need to have their needs met. 

Greg EubanksThen the second thing is: These kids aren't fixable or they're beyond help, or lost causes, or broken. I've heard all these adjectives, and I understand where that comes from. For the past several years, we've heard all kinds of news and research that the brain finishes developing by age 3, and your personality set and everything's done. So you hear about these kids aged 7, 8, 9, 13, 16,17 in foster care and it's easy to say that they are who they are going to be. It's a done deal. But the fascinating thing to me … and this is what we're learning by studying the impact of trauma on childhood. And not just acute trauma, not like a one-time thing, but complex developmental trauma, which is seated in relationships. What we're learning is that the brain has the ability to repair itself throughout life. It's called neuroplasticity. 

Greg EubanksIt’s funny -- when we train our parents, we talk about the impact of trauma on child development in one way after another. And we get to this point where we just kind of confess: ‘OK have we thoroughly depressed everyone? Have we scared you?’ We want to say, it's not too late, because of what we're learning about the brain and this concept of neuroplasticity, that the brain can heal itself, change itself, throughout adulthood. It never stops. That's very empowering and it's very exciting, that if we understand that this child has been handed a childhood full of trauma before they have come to us, there are very specific things we can do to help that child recover from trauma. We can rewire the brain. It is not too late. It's not too late at all. Whether they're age 7 or 17, it's not too late.

Kristin KalningTake me through what happens when a child is removed from his parents. 

Greg EubanksI’m going to start before they're removed, a little bit. So, usually someone -- whether that's a mandated reporter, like a teacher or a doctor or nurse --is calling in suspicion of child abuse to the child abuse hotline. A lot of times, it's neighbors. The most the most frequent caller is usually a teacher, interestingly enough.

Greg EubanksSo, that will trigger -- depending on what they're describing -- it will either trigger nothing, because it's not … I don't want to say they dismiss it. I'm going to say that just because a report is made doesn't mean it launches anything. But it goes into the record ,when a report is made that is worthy of investigation. Then the state government has to send out someone to investigate that scenario. And if the investigation proves that there is significant risk for this child, then they are removed from their home.

Kristin KalningWhat's considered significant risk?

Greg EubanksHonestly, it depends on the state, the county the judge, and the social worker. It's a judgment call, and I don't say that to point fingers. I think it's really difficult. I'm trying to imagine myself as a fresh-out-of-school social worker who gets hired by the state and is, within three months, tasked with making a life-or-death judgment call. And so, don't hear this as a finger-pointing because that's not what it is. But it's judgment calls. 

Greg EubanksI have to weigh -- if I'm the investigator I have to weigh: Can this be helped by services? Is it beyond help? Is this child in imminent danger, to where, I need to take this child with me? Or is this something that we can go to a judge? And so, all of those are judgment calls.

 

Kristin KalningOK, so the judgment is made to remove the child. Then what?

 

Greg EubanksSo then the state has to do a couple of things. You have to do the legal route of going to a judge and having a hearing to confirm the removal. 

Kristin KalningBut in the meantime is the child kept in the home, or no?

Greg EubanksSo, the child's been removed and you've got all this legal stuff to deal with. But you also have the logistics of: Where does this child go? And you hear about, at least in Washington, we've heard about this crisis of kids staying in hotels. And when you have a placement crisis, meaning: I've got this child and I've removed them, now I'm going to look for a family for them or for a safe place for them to stay. 

Greg EubanksIf there are not enough foster families, then there's got to be something else: An emergency shelter, sometimes hospitals, if they're if they're in need of medical care or immediate psychiatric care. There are foster parents who agree to be emergency placements, which means at any time of the day or night you can get a call and you agree to, yes bring that child. I'll take care of that child until you can find the right placement for them. That's all on the state. 

Greg EubanksYou know, WACAP, as a private agency, we have the privilege of saying whether or not we have a family that will meet the needs of that child. Every private agency has that privilege. The state doesn't. If they remove a child, which they need to do and should do in many many cases, it's on them to take care of that child now. And so they do the very best that they can, within our system within the number of foster parents that we have. They look for relatives as well, and about almost half of the kids in care in Washington state are placed with relatives. They call that kinship care. So it is a matter of, in the moment, where can we place this child.

Kristin KalningWhat is the average number of placements a child will see in foster care? Describe a little bit about what these placements due to a child's ability to attach.

Greg EubanksSo that's a tough one. I've never been able to find the statistic and I've searched again knowing that we'd be talking about this. So, the federal government established outcomes for states. One of the outcomes is stable placements. And so they look for how many children have had two or less placements. That's the federal standard: two or less. And so, for Washington state they've got this reported by the length of time that a child is in care. What I've discovered, by looking at this, is that the longer a child stays in care, clearly, the worse it gets. 

Greg EubanksSo for a child who's in care less than one month, almost 20 percent, had three or more placements. Our state met that benchmark for the federal government by around 80 percent, but that means 20 percent of them had three or more. Now. Whether that's for -- 

Kristin KalningIn a month?

Greg EubanksNo, that's in less than 12 months. If they've been in care for a year or less. If they've been in care for 12 to 24 months, 37 percent had three or more placements, and for kids who are in care longer than 24 months, it's 60 percent. 

Kristin KalningWhat does that do to a child's ability to attach? And what is attachment and why is it important?

Greg EubanksSure. So, attachment is … this is really good question because we talk about attachment, and then you also hear people talking about bonding. Two totally different things. Bonding is: how do I feel about you? Whoever I'm talking about bonding with. Attachment for a child is … from a child development standpoint, it's dealing with the psychosocial stage of trust versus mistrust. Can I trust the adults in my world or can I not? If I have a need, and I express that need, are the adults in my world predictable and dependable to, on the regular, meet that need consistently? 

Greg EubanksWe see if for infants -- this we call the attachment cycle. It repeats hundreds of times a day, thousands of times a month, and over the first three years of life, it's happening like crazy. Or it's not. And if it doesn't -- because of whatever reason --  then that has a significant impact on a child's ability to trust their environment, trust their caregivers, and attach. That … I know I'm safe, I feel safe. 

Greg EubanksIt's like, imagine if you pulled off a piece of duct tape and you stick it to your inner arm, and you pull that off. The first time you do that, it is going to hurt like crazy because that duct tape is really sticky. So, you have a child that’s born into a biological family -- very bonded, very attached, most often. But in the case of removals, sometimes that attachment is impacted. You remove that child, it's like pulling, it's like yanking that duct tape off your arm, and it hurts. The more you try to restick that duct tape, the less sticky it gets.

Kristin KalningYeah that's a good example. How many of the children in foster care in Washington state --  I know it's difficult to speak from a national level -- are legally free for adoption?

Greg EubanksSo, about 1,500 are legally free. A total of almost 3,300 are waiting for adoption, which is, that's kind of an interesting thing. Let me let me explain that really quick. The 3,300 number, the total number is the number of children whose permanency plan has been identified as adoption. When a child is in foster care, they have to have a permanency plan. Most of the time it's reunification. We want to permanently get this child back to their family of origin, get those parents or that parent help and services so that the child can go home. And that happens most of the time. 

Greg EubanksOther permanency plans are relative care, legal guardianship adoption, and emancipation. Now, I don't see -- just my little personal soapbox here -- I don't see legal guardianship or emancipation as permanency plans. Legal guardianship means: I'm your guardian until you turn 18, and then I'm not. That's not permanent. And emancipation means a child just exits foster care to nobody. Emancipation is no different than planned homelessness to me. 

Greg EubanksBut … you asked about adoption. So, for those children whose legal permanency plan is adoption, the state is probably working towards termination of parental rights so that those children can be legally free for adoption, but that hasn't happened yet, or it's in the appeals process, or it's in whatever stage legally. But of those 3,300, 1,500 are actually legally free; their parental rights have been terminated. 

Kristin KalningYou just mentioned kinship care, which … when I was going over the data, it showed that kinship care, or that the number of kids in foster care that live with relatives, is up pretty significantly. Why do you think that is?

Greg EubanksPressure. Awareness. (Laughs.) We’re changing our practice. Where, you know, years ago foster parents weren't even considered to adopt a child. So we evolve and we change our practice. And so I think one of the ways that we're changing for the better in recent years, not only in understanding trauma and its impact, but we're understanding the value of relatives. I think, historically, all relatives were lumped in with the “abusive parent,” the “neglectful parent.” And so there was an automatic bias against relatives, and that's changing, which I think is terrific. 

Greg EubanksSo, more and more, the state, when they're looking for placements they're looking not only at foster homes, but relatives. They're asking the child, they're asking the parents: Who could take who could take your child? Are there grandparents, are there aunts, uncles, are there adult siblings? And so, that's happening more and more, which is really great. 

Greg EubanksThe challenge sometimes is that … if those relatives aren't licensed as foster care providers, they're not eligible for all the services that come with that. So, that's the next step. That we're doing it now, but wouldn't we're not necessarily supporting them very well, as a society. We're saying here, take care of this child, it's great we're so happy that they're living with you, but I'm not gonna help you in any way. So I think that's the next step, and I hope that we can play a part in that.

Kristin KalningSo, in the episode that precedes this one, I interviewed a wonderful family that adopted a little boy from foster care. He was an infant, which is pretty rare, but at any rate they prevailed, and I described a bit about what it entails to become a foster care parent, what the licensure looks like. Can you just recap that for me?

 

Greg EubanksSure. So, it involves an approved home study, and then it involves a home inspection, to make sure the home is compliant with all of the administrative code regulations over safety, and room size, and all of those kind of things. And it involves all kinds of paperwork: Marriage licenses, divorce decrees, driver's licenses, insurance, medical insurance, health insurance. I mean, any kind of documentation you can think of, the state's going to want to see that. 

Greg EubanksAnd they're going to want to see that, on several different levels, at several different points of time, this family has been looked at, and assessed to be appropriate to keep children safe, particularly children who are coming from a background of trauma. I think the one thing I didn't mention was maybe the most important thing: criminal background checks, and abuse registry checks. Those are done on a regular basis for all foster parents, and for most relative caregivers, too. But for the license it's that: and, and, and, and. It’s overwhelming, quite honestly.

Kristin KalningWell, so then, let's talk a little bit about WACAP. Although WACAP was best known, perhaps, for international adoption -- my husband and I worked with wake up to adopt our second child from China -- the very first child WACAP placed, back in 1976, was a child from foster care. Describe how WACAP has worked with the foster care system here in Washington over the years. 

Greg EubanksSure. So, for the longest time, WACAP’s approach was adoption only, and that was terrific. There's nothing wrong with that approach, nothing at all. And WACAP has helped over 800 kids find permanent adoptive families out of the foster care system in Washington since 1976, and we have been focused on that approach until the last three or four years. In the last three to four years, as the system has begun to change, then we've tried to change with it, which we've done in steps. And we've tried to walk through that change, which sometimes is really challenging, but I think, every day when I come to work, and we are trying to deal with these challenges, I think: These kids are worth it. These kids are worth it.

Greg EubanksSo, what we've done is help change the way … we've begun to change the way we train and prepare our families. We've begun to change the way we license them, so families are coming to us -- historically -- wanting to adopt a child from foster care. About three or four years ago, we began to say: That is great. There's room for you. We're so glad that you're stepping forward. Here's the type of child you can expect: We're talking about a child age 6 or older. We're talking about sibling groups. If we're talking about younger children between 0 and 6, we're talking about kids with significant health needs, most often. And if that's if that's what you're open to, then yeah, let's work together. 

Greg EubanksAnd so we've gotten families by that, and we've placed kids for adoption. Hovering around 10, some years a little less, some years a little more, each year, adoptions. Slowly, we began to recruit families who were open to increasing what we call is their legal risk. So, a child is placed with them whose plan, like I mentioned before, their permanency plan is adoption, but they're not legally free for adoption yet. So there's a risk that a judge could change that permanency plan. There's a risk that the state could find another relative, there's a risk that that placement won't work through to adoption. And most of our placements have, but we've had some placements who've been reunified … kids have been moved so they can move in with a grandparent. That reunification has happened, placement with a sibling has happened. 

Greg EubanksAnd so now, we're at that place when we look at the statistics, and we read the same articles everybody else is reading about the foster care crisis in Washington -- we don't have enough families. Kids are staying in hotels, and we're saying: We want to keep serving children who need permanent families by recruiting, and training, and preparing adoptive families. But we also want to serve those kids who are staying in hotels, because that's not good enough. And so now we are saying to families: If you want to help, no matter how, you want to help, give us a call.

Greg EubanksWe need families who will be respite care providers, who will take care of kids while their foster family takes a break. They get a weekend away, mom and dad, or a weekend away, dad and dad, or a weekend away, mom and mom, or single parents. We need families to help with respite and there are families out there who would say, you know, I could do that. I can take care of a child for a weekend or maybe a week, and I can do that. So we're hoping that they come forward with us. We're looking for families who would be willing to be emergency placement providers.

Kristin KalningHow does WACAP help with that? Are you helping them go through it? The paperwork, and the and, and, and …?

Greg EubanksWe’re helping those families navigate that. So, we provide the services to them, we do the home study. They're engaging with one agency, one organization, and then we're the liaison with the state. We will take that to the state and negotiate all the back and forth of … ‘on this report it says this, but I shouldn't be in that,’ it's all of the specific requirements. We are on the phone with the department of licensing and regulations trying to get all of that figured out on behalf of the family. 

Greg EubanksAnd then, we support the family by matching them with the appropriate child, by understanding and advocating when the state is considering a placement, to say this family, whether they're emergency, or respite, or long-term foster care, or foster-to-adopt, or adoption only. This is the kind of child they're best suited to care for. 

Greg EubanksSo, if we are referred a child that's outside that range then …. we're going to make sure that a good matching decision is made, based on skills and needs -- skills of the family, needs of the child -- rather than: We have a child, and it's 7:30 at night on a Friday, and we need a bed. That's a different approach. And again, I understand why the state has to take that approach sometimes. It's not our approach.

 

Kristin KalningSo, instead of calling families directly, they will call WACAP, and say we've got this kid –

Greg EubanksWe've got these kids, yeah. We'll get emails, we'll get phone calls. I went back and looked last Friday. Last Friday, there were 51 kids that the state reached out to private agencies about. On one day, 51 kids. They needed different types of placements: some needed respite for the weekend, some needed long-term care, some needed long-term foster parent that might become a permanent parent. And these are kids of all ages: Three-year-old twins, a five year-old girl, 12 year old girl, 17 year old boy, and everything in between. 

Greg EubanksIt's overwhelming, the requests we get for families to take care of these kids, and I believe that's where our urgency comes from, for both myself, and our foster care team who are doing this work, and supporting families, and talking to them, and recruiting them, and to try to onboard them, and help them navigate the system, and then support them after a child is placed with them. The urgency comes from, there's not a day that goes by, and 50 is a light day, honestly. 

Greg EubanksAnd so we're seeing, and we're reading these stories. It's things like: A four year-old boy who's extremely helpful with foster parents. He will follow directions to throw away things and help clean up around the home. He offers to help sweep. Praise is an effective tool and motivator. He's good at stating how he feels and if he is upset. He needs a long-term placement. That means he needs a foster family. 

Greg EubanksAn 18 year-old boy in need of a long-term placement. He's a high school graduate. He played football until he suffered a season-ending injury. So he's had surgery for that, which makes it difficult on occasion. Bright, social, goal-oriented, and plans to attend to college. And he has no family. Imagine what that's like: To be recovering from a major surgery from an injury that keeps you from participating in sports. Which was probably part of what he thought his future would be. 

Kristin KalningAnd a great outlet. 

Greg EubanksAnd a great outlet. High school graduate, plans for college. But you have no one. And those are the stories that keep us going, that help motivate us to do this work, and motivate us to go find those families, and to work through all the difficulties because it’s a difficult system. I wouldn't pretend otherwise. It's a difficult and challenging system for these foster families. There are all kinds of people that are in their home, in their business. We are asking them the most intimate of questions when we're doing home studies. Then we’re in their home every month, offering support. Which you know, in all honesty, sometimes can come across as: ‘Are you doing everything right?’ And that's hard. But these kids are worth it.

 

Kristin KalningSo, let's say someone's listening to this and they want to help. They want to become a licensed foster care family and they happen to live in Washington state. Washington and where else? 

Greg EubanksSo, right now we are serving, in western Washington, three counties: Snohomish, King, and Pierce. So families that in those counties. And we have a pretty small area; we will look to expand that. But we've made it small, and not that long ago, because we're continually realizing the importance of support and availability. And if we can't get to a home within a couple of hours, then what kind of support are we? And so we'd rather help families find an agency that is closer to them, or help them work with the state. 

Greg EubanksThrough our merger with Holt, then, we'll be offering services in Oregon as well. So, for families in Oregon or western Washington, if they're interested and want to help, we just want them to call us. Probably the best thing to do, as we're going through this transition, is to go to our website, which is wacap.org, or email us at wacap@wacap.org.

Kristin KalningOK, and I'll put this in the show notes. To anybody listening, who’s in their car, and can’t write this down, I’ll put it in the show notes. 

Greg EubanksOK. So that'll be a way that people can contact us. And, we'll walk you through it. You don't have to have all the answers. I love those ads that are out there -- I'm sure people have seen: you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent, and all that is true. You don't have all the answers. You don't have to know the end when you start. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And so we'll help you. We'll help you walk through. At no point is anybody ever committed. If you if you e-mail us, if you talk to us, we're not gonna sign you up for anything. There's specific steps of the process so let us tell you about those, and let us answer any questions that you have. And let us provide you with resources that answer the questions you didn't even know to ask. That's why we're here. 

Kristin KalningAnd so, somebody gets in touch. How much does it cost them?

Greg EubanksSo the total fee, to work with WACAP, if you want to adopt, it is $2,000. 

Kristin KalningWow. 

Greg EubanksPlus the court -- the attorney fees, when it's time to finalize. And, when you are providing foster care for that child, for the six to 18 months that it will take for their court case to go through and get the finalization, you will be receiving a monthly reimbursement payment from the state. So, $2,000 out of your pocket, and every month, anywhere from $400 to $700 to help reimburse you for the added costs of raising a child. 

Greg EubanksIf you want to do foster care, it's less. There's a $500 matching fee that we have for adoptive parents, and that's paid annual annually. If you're open to foster care then we waive that fee. So, that brings it down to $1,500.

Kristin KalningOK. $1,500 to have WACAP help you navigate through the system to become a foster care parent.

Greg EubanksRight, and support you with trauma-informed information, evidence-based models to train you on that, and then be in your home to help you apply it to the child who’s in front of you every day.

Kristin KalningAre you training families right now? 

Greg EubanksAbsolutely. We are.

Kristin KalningAnd then, just briefly, because this was how we came to WACAP: What's happening to international adoption?

Greg EubanksInternational adoption continues, and we're thrilled that it is. As WACAP and Holt combine, WACAP is bringing new countries to Holt's country list. So Taiwan and Bulgaria are programs that will be newly available to families working with Holt, and Holt brings three new countries that WACAP families haven't had access to: Colombia, the Philippines and Vietnam. And the remaining countries are ones that we're already working in: China, Thailand, Haiti.

Kristin KalningYour focus is really going to be on helping these kids who are closer to home.

Greg EubanksMy role at Holt will be focused on the domestic side of things, the kids in foster care, because there are plenty of experts that are transitioning with WACAP over to become Holt employees, and Holt’s existing staff. So I'm really excited to take this next step in my career, in serving the kids that are in our neighborhood, wherever that may be. So we'll start in Washington and Oregon and then hopefully, expand that model to states where it's needed. That's the idea.

Kristin KalningAll right. Well, good luck with that. It's definitely something that needs doing. And if anyone can do it, I know this team can. 

Greg Eubanks This team can. 

Kristin KalningThank you Greg.

Greg Eubanks Thanks.

 

Real Life Adoption is brought to you by me, Kristin Kalning. Our producer is Dave Nelson, from Lens Group Media. Big thanks to Greg Eubanks, who set aside an hour to talk to me in the midst of a merger, and the entire WACAP staff, past and present, who held our hands and cheered us on through our second adoption. We wouldn't have our beautiful, joyful, hilarious little boy without you.

If you like what you hear, please subscribe to Real Life Adoption on iTunes, and if you're so inclined, leave us a review. You can find Real Life Adoption on Facebook and Instagram. If you'd like to pitch us a story, check out Real Life Adoption dot com, and click on Participate.

 

Show Notes: Greg is the CEO of the World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP). On April 1, 2019, WACAP will merge with Holt International. Greg mentioned the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding permanent homes for children in North America’s foster care systems. Also mentioned: The Family First Prevention Act, which allocated $20 million for early intervention and prevention services, and an Investigate West story about Washington’s struggle to retain foster-care parents.