File reading allows prospective adoptive parents to learn all they can about their matched child before making an adoption decision. There are two main reasons why prospective adoptive parents need the information contained in the child's file before they finalize an adoption.
Reading a child's foster care files allows prospective adoptive parents the chance to gain information they need to make an informed, final decision on whether or not to adopt the child. During the file reading they will learn about the child's history and a bit about the child's birth family. This information usually includes mental and physical health diagnoses, the child's development, and school performance. The prospective adoptive parents can then assess this information and ask themselves, "Can we successfully add this child to our family and parent this child? Is this a good adoption match? Are we now ready to make an adoption decision?"
If the family has already decided to adopt, even before the file reading, the information gained, as mentioned above, will help the prospective adoptive family know all they can about the child's past so when issues arise as the child grows and develops, they have the background information needed to fully understand the child's behavior. The file read will also help the family asses their community to see what service are available to the child if and when issues do arise.
Other Tips Adoptive Parents Need about File Reading
Large multiple files. - The files of a child that has spent any amount of time in foster care are usually pretty thick, there may also be multiple files to go through as it is common for each state entity or agency to have kept their own file on the child and birth family. For example, the head state agency may have their own file, the foster care agency will have a file, and then the adoption agency will have a file.
Information about the children. - Know that the information in the file is primarily about the child; information on the birth parents is often removed before the file reading. So, a birth parent's psychological test results will not be in the file. If you happen to run across any information on the birth parents, count yourself lucky and document anything that may be helpful to the child in the future. This is not about gaining information to gossip about later, but gaining information that may help the child with getting needed services or you insight into their behavior.
Be prepared to take notes. - You will most likely not be allowed to make photocopies, but may be allowed to take notes; each agency may have different rules on file readings for prospective adoptive parents. Bring legal sized note pads and pens just in case you're not provided with writing material.
Time limits. - You may also have limited time with the files, so ask how much time you will be allowed to read. Also ask if you can make more than one trip to read the files and how long you can sit with the files each session. You may also need information in the future, so ask if you can request the files again, even years later.
Know what you're looking for. - Reading the files of children who have been in the custody of the state can be very overwhelming. Not only is there is a ton of information contained in the files, but they are often huge. This is especially true for foster children who have been in custody for several years. It's easier to manage if you enter the file reading session with an idea of the information you need to focus on in order to make an informed decision on whether or not to adopt the child.