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Foster Care To Adoption—

Not Always Permanent

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Finding A Forever Home After Broken Adoptions

Children in foster care are among the most vulnerable youth in the system. At CLC, we know that child placement requires careful oversight to ensure foster children do not end up in a "broken adoption." This is the goal of our Broken Adoptions Project ("BAP"), a component of our Reflective Advocacy Practice.

The Issue

Foster care to adoption is one path a child takes to a permanent home—yet it is not always permanent. CLC defines a "broken adoption" as a situation in which a child who has been adopted through the foster care system is displaced from their home.

It is the hope and expectation that an adopted child and their adoptive family will thrive emotionally, mentally, and physically without any further state intervention. However, CLC attorneys and social workers observed that children who had been adopted out of foster care were returning through the revolving doors of Family Court as subjects in CLC's specialized representation of children in custody and guardianship cases.

The average age of these children at their adoption was 3 years old and the "break" from the adoptive family was during adolescence. As part our reflective work, the BAP initiative was created to advocate for youth, and to collect data on the various reasons that led to the youth no longer being in the home. 

Read more about the issues surrounding BAP:


The Revolving Doors of Family Court: Confronting Broken Adoptions
Dawn J.Post and Brian Zimmerman

Are You Still My Family? Post-Adoption Sibling Visitation 
Dawn J. Post, Esq., Sarah McCarthy, Esq. Roger Sherman, PH.D., and Servet Bayimli

New York Law School Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families 
Impact Center for Public Interest Law 
Challenges for Former foster Youth and Legal Reform

In the Matter of a Support Proceeding, J.M., v. R.M.

The Response

Since 2011, CLC has sought to highlight the number of children who do not find true "permanency" after a foster care adoption. Some causes include death or infirmity of the adoptive parent with no other caretaker willing or able to step in; allegations of abuse or neglect; behavioral issues; or unmet mental health needs. These youth sometimes have lost contact with siblings, and many have questions about the adoption subsidy that they believe is put in place for their care and support. BAP represents three distinct categories of broken adoption clients: youth who have returned to the foster care system, youth who are homeless, and youth who have been taken in by another caretaker we have learned about since they have filed a guardianship or custody case.

Our Approach

Today, BAP works to ensure youth impacted by the loss of an adoptive connection will have their voice heard in a court or non-court proceeding that impact them. They will be fully informed about the possible outcomes of their situation. These youth will be fully informed about the possible outcomes of the adoption subsidy (if one is involved). They will be fully informed about their options regarding sibling contact (if siblings are a topic they want explored) and our goal is for these youth to connect to a stable, caring adult and appropriate services to help them move successfully into their adult lives.




January 2011: Staff members notice petitions for guardianship were being filed on behalf of children who had previously been adopted out of foster care.  CLC conducted a six month Trend Study of live and cold cases to see how many case came in to the organization the fit the criteria of "Broken Adoptions" A dedicated team in both The Bronx and Brooklyn office represented these clients and ascertained the causative factors of the children returning to the family court under a new petition.  

February 2011: CLC developed an anonymous survey on adoption finalizations and sought and received permission from the Administrative Judge and the head of the Assigned Counsel for the Appellate Division Second Department to distribute the survey. The survey was also distributed to other not for profit stakeholders. 

March 2011:  CLC presented at the Wells Conference at Capital University School of Law in Columbus, Ohio.

July 2011: The results of The Trend Study and survey were analyzed and were presented at the American Bar Association Children and the Law Conference in Washington DC.  September 2011: the draft article by Dawn Post and Brian Zimmerman, The Revolving Door of Family Court, was submitted to Capital University School of Law Review.

November 2011: The Trend Study was presented at the Permanent Judicial Commission of Children. The team presented at NACC, Rudd Conference, Family Court Advisory Meetings at the court and encourage other stakeholders. 


May 2012: The Revolving Door article was published and CLC continued to collect data and represent children on these cases.


2013 - 2014: The Kirkland and Ellis Broken Adoptions Fellow joined CLC and The BAP Team and expanded the practice to represent young people in child support cases commenced, and the team started to look closely at the use and misuse of the adoption subsidy.


January 2014: The Voice Project was the next focus of BAP.  The Voice Project focused on the stories of Broken Adoption youth who have lost contact or connections with siblings. A law review article was submitted entitled Are you Still My Family. 

August 2014: CLC BAP presented at the National Association of Counsel for Children in Denver on the issue of youth who have lost contact with their siblings post-adoption.


January 2015: The CLC BAP team started planning with other co-sponsors a symposium to be live and webcast at New York Law School entitled Beyond Permanency: Challenges for Former Foster Youth held on October 23, 2015 from 9 am - 5 pm.   

June 2015: Are you Still My Family was published by the Law Review at Capital University School of Law.

October 23, 2015:  Beyond Permanency: Challenges for Former Foster Youth Symposium was held and seven hundred government officials, non-profit leaders, former Foster Youth over 18, and academics gathered at New York Law School and via webcast from 46 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Australia for this cutting edge symposium that discussed the challenges and sought to identify solutions to help foster youth faced with failed/broken adoptions.

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