Since the three and four-year-old Orson and Orrin West disappeared into the night more than a week ago, their biological mother, Ryan Dean has come forward, saying she wants custody of her children when they are found. As we have discovered, reuniting families is an arduous process, rivaled only by the lengthy steps in finding the right foster family.
“It’s unfortunate when any child is injured or hurt in our community or any other community, but we’re not able to predict the future of what anyone is going to do,” Jana Slagle Spokesperson, Kern County Department of Human Services (DHS) said. “So, that’s why we try to use the tools at hand to try to determine the best outcomes for kids. I pray the best for those children.”
Slagle assured 23ABC that the vetting process for adoptive parents is not only lengthy but thorough.
As of 2017, the State of California requires foster parents, aspiring adoptive parents and relatives to all go under “resource family approval.” For foster parents, it can take up to six months to get approval.
With the DHS, they have to go through 12 hours of training, background checks, a home inspection, finger-printing, medical inspection by their physician, then a quote, “very detailed” psycho-social assessment with a social worker.
“We asked them questions about how they were raised, any trauma in their past, and we try to get a handle on how they are and why they want to adopt,” Slagle said.
After they are adopted or in foster care homes, Slagle said the child protective services check in on the families regularly. This is something they’ve still been able to carry on during the pandemic, either virtually or in-person while following CDC guidelines.
“While it’s changed everything we do, we still are extremely diligent in approving good foster parents and do everything we can, because we really do care about these children in our system,” Slagle said.
Slagle added that the goal post-foster care is family reunification, if the biological parent is deemed fit to take care of their child after six months of reforming their lives and court decisions. regular check-ups would occur even after if granted. If not, adoption is the next step.
“That process can take up to 18 months to two years to finalize, because biological parents are giving many chances to make those changes,” Slagle said. “So it’s not a fast process.”
When asked if biological parents can obtain custody post-adoption, Slagle said the cases are rare, but still possible. It’s carefully decided by the courts and the biological parent has to prove they’ve changed since their custody was denied.