November is National Adoption Month and there are around 10,000 children in the city foster care. Black children account for nearly 60 percent of all children in the foster care system.
The New York Foundling is the city’s second-largest foster care provider. It offers a variety of human services children and families and operates the Mott Haven Academy Charter School in the South Bronx developed for youth in the child welfare system.
The non-profit has been in the city since 1869 and reaches 27,000 families in all five boroughs. The Foundling also offers programs for adults with developmental disabilities, mental health services and transitional assistance for youth aging out of the system.
“We are more concerned about tomorrow than we are yesterday,” said New York Foundling President and CEO, Bill Baccaglini. “We’re constantly pushing the envelope on ways to respond to the need of the kids and families we serve. We love the kids and families of this city and we won’t rest until the foster care population is at zero and every kid is at home with their parents and safe.”
Children can come into foster care until the age of 18 but they can stay in foster care until age are 21. Around 65 percent of children who come into the foster care ultimately go back to their parents. Nearly a quarter get adopted. The remaining 15 percent age out care once they reach adulthood.
“The New York Foundling has done more adoptions in the city every year than any other child welfare agency and we are ASC’s largest provider,” Baccaglini. “The child welfare system in New York City has never been stronger. The city can pat itself on the back for having led the move to aggressive and focused preventive services.”
The adoption process begins for a child when the rights of their parents have been terminated. Unlike many other agencies, the Foundling does adoption only through foster care. This year the organization will do 80 adoptions.
Baccaglini said, “Someone who wants to adopt has to be a foster parent first and we have to approve you. There’s 30 hours of training. It’s not that burdensome but we have make sure their house is OK. If your family arrangement and your house is appropriate and passes the standards we have, then you become a foster parent.”
After being a foster parent, the Founding discusses which children the foster parent can care for. As children come into care, organization finds a child that best fits the potential parent’s profile.
Most of the biological parents of children who come into foster care still have parental rights and children could go back with them, which the Foundling encourages and embraces. However, some parents voluntarily give up their rights resulting in an accelerated adoption.
“If a parent gives up their parental rights, an adoption can be finalized 8 to 12 months,” Baccaglini said. “If a parent’s doesn’t give up their rights, you have to petition a court to terminate a parent’s rights. In that scenario, an adoption could take up to two years.”
A new program called the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP) is designed for a foster child to achieve permanent placement with a relative who had been the child’s foster parent for at least six months.
The program provides financial support and medical coverage for the child beginning with the child’s discharge from foster care to the guardian. Financial support is similar to the maintenance payments received while the child was in foster care.
Grandparents mostly make up the relatives who take care of children in KinGAP. Relatives don’t fully adopt children but become their legal guardian. The program only applies to blood relatives.
“Keeping a family bond is important. The Foundling has a higher percentage of its kids in foster care in kinship care than any other agency in the city. We feel very strongly about keeping kids with family members,” Baccaglini said.
In honor of National Adoption Month, The New York Foundling recently celebrated its “Fall Fête” inviting donors to “adopt” the organization as their charity of choice.
To learn more about the New York Foundling go to www.nyfoundling.org.