Once chosen to adopt a child from foster care, the chosen adoptive parents are given the opportunity to read the child's file before signing the initial agreement to adopt. The file reading is when the adoptive parents will really see if this is a good match for their family. These files will be invaluable in helping the adoptive parents not only understand where the child has been and the abuse and neglect experienced, but determine how to best help the child. It may also help the adoptive parent to see if they can help this child and are the best adoption match for the child.
What Adoptive Parents Should Focus on While File Reading
Medical History - When digging through the child's files first focus on medical history. See if the child has any allergies. Also see if the child has had any reactions or allergies to medications. Check to see how the child has handled immunizations in the past. Look for information on surgeries too. After looking through the files for the child's medical history, check to see if there is any mention of medical history on the child's birth family. Look for information on the birth parents, siblings, and other extended relatives. Especially pay attention to any mention of diagnoses such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. This is information the child will need in the future.
Mental Health History - After exploring the medical health history of your child and the child's birth family, look for information regarding the family's mental health. Look for past and present diagnosis of the child, the child's parents, and siblings. Also look for information on any medication the child may have been prescribed in the past and if there were any effects documented in the file.
Educational History – It's also important to have your child's educational history. Look for the name and addresses of past schools. Look for notes on behavior problems in class and any noted needs the child may have had in the past. Also look for resources or interventions schools may have tried with the child. Also look for any documentation of individual education plans (IEP) the child may have in the file.
Placement History - In order to get a good idea on what the child may have been going through while in the foster care system, it's important to know why the child came into custody in the very beginning. Look for the petition that the state filed with the court in order for the child to be placed in the custody of the state. This document will note why the child came into custody. Also look for the number of placements, or foster homes the child may have had while in custody. This information should also include why the child was moved from each foster home. This information will provide needed information on the child's past and how that past impacts behaviors today. It will also offer you more understanding into why the child has different needs. Also note the number of intakes or investigations into the family. This documentation will also help you understand the child and what the child endured before entering the foster care system.
Family History - Note the names, date of birth, and places where the family resides. This documentation may help when trying to find birth family in the future, if desired. Look for information on both sides of the family, paternal and maternal and go back as far as the notes in the file provide. Note any scrap of information about the birth family, such as birth mother graduated from high school and then went on to trade school or the paternal grandfather served in the Vietnam War. This family history will be important to the child and will be great to add to the child's lifebook.