Stephen Colburn (center), who will soon be adopted
by family member Cheri Watkins, with (from left) Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Judge Michael Nash, and adoption advocates
SAN FRANCISCO—The Judicial Council adopted a resolution at its October 24 business meeting proclaiming November 2013 to be “Court Adoption and Permanency Month” in California. Working with the Governor, the Legislature, and local courts and court partners, the council seeks to develop procedures, programs, and resources that lead to swift, fair, and permanent resolutions for all children in foster care and dependency proceedings.
“All children deserve to be raised in safe, healthy, loving, permanent homes,” said Los Angeles Judge Michael Nash, who addressed the council during the meeting. Judge Nash, the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court, was instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of timely finalization of permanency when he organized the first Adoption Saturday in 1998. “There are many different paths to permanency—adoption, guardianship, family reunification—each of which, when achieved, marks a successful case resolution and exit from the foster care system. These successes can only happen if the juvenile courts and their partners keep permanency goals in sight from the beginning of every case and work toward them throughout the process."
Council Hears Personal Stories From Families
At its October 24 meeting, the council heard from three families who took different routes to permanency (see photos and captions or listen to audiocast: 38:53):
- A mother from Santa Clara County explained how the collaborative work of the Dependency Drug Court helped her overcome problems to reunify with her child and motivated her to continue to serve as a full-time Mentor Parent to families currently in dependency court. Listen (7:50)
- A family from San Diego County described their pioneering journey through the process of Tribal Customary Adoption, a permanency option established by the Legislature in 2009. Listen (9:43)
- The adoptive mother of a Los Angeles County youth in probation-supervised foster care recounted the challenges and rewards of their lengthy adoption process. Listen (6:42)
Local Court Adoption Events
In recognition of Court Adoption and Permanency Month, many California courts will sponsor special adoption events, including Adoption Saturdays and other locally designated days throughout the month. During the special events, judges, court staff, attorneys, and adoption agencies finalize adoptions of children and celebrate with the adoptive families.
Foster Care Statistics
For the 15th straight November, the council resolution calls attention both to the successes achieved over the past decade and the need for continuing efforts to achieve family reunification, adoption, and permanency for children.
Following is further information and statistics about foster care in California:
- Almost 500,000 reports of child abuse and neglect are made each year in California, and more than 22,000 children enter foster care.
- The law regards foster care as a temporary service, not a remedy. No foster care case, whether in dependency or delinquency court, is truly over until the child can safely return home or, if those efforts fail, is placed in another safe, permanent home with a loving family.
- In 2012–2013, of the almost 26,000 children who were able to leave foster care, 57 percent were reunified with their families, 22 percent were adopted, and 9 percent left care when they reached 18 years of age.
- Of the 58,000 children currently living apart from their families in court-ordered out-of-home care, 38 percent will not leave the foster care system within two years; 9,400 will remain in “temporary” foster care for more than five years.