Serious question: Are adoption facilitators regulated? Are there any standards they must adhere to? I know they aren’t even allowed to work in some states, but in the states that they do operate in, do they have a set of rules they must follow?
I ask because my most recent interaction with Lifetime Adoption Center, has left me cold and worried for anyone else who has or will ever seek their help in planning an adoption from either side. I originally requested my records in 2009. After a brief runaround I received a scanned copy of a questionnaire I had filled out at the beginning of the adoption process. I was disappointed but didn’t press the issues.
A few weeks ago a friend requested her records. She was able to get case notes from her agency, although they were incomplete/altered. Another friend requested her records and was lied to and told they had no record of her. We know this is a lie because they then suggested that she contact the lawyer who handled the adoption. How could they provide her with the correct lawyer’s information if they had no record of her?
The experiences of my friends inspired me to try again. I reached out and was immediately met with contempt. The first person who answered the phone seemed to try to hide her disdain for me, but then she passed the phone to her supervisor. Diane didn’t even try to hid her contempt. She kept repeating irrelevant information very slowly as if I just wasn’t getting it. I kept telling her I understood that the legal paperwork was sealed but that wasn’t what I was seeking. I wanted my case notes. She then moved on to asking about Kidlet’s adoptive parents and our level of openness. I relayed that I had actually spoken with M the day before and we were planning our next visit for the following month, but that this was also irrelevant to me getting my records. She tried then to claim they didn’t do case notes. I challenged this as a social worker and as someone with common sense and she described to me what sounds an awful lot like case notes only apparently they don’t refer to them as that. Regardless of what they call them I told her I’d like a copy and that I understood they’d need to be redacted if they contained identifying information about other parties. Her next tactic was to complain that she’d need to get the records from the off site archives.
For any non-social workers reading (or any social workers who haven’t read the NASW Code of Ethics recently) Let’s pause and look at a couple of excerpts from the Code of Ethics.
(a) Social workers should take reasonable steps to ensure that documentation in records is accurate and reflects the services provided.
(b) Social workers should include sufficient and timely documentation in records to facilitate the delivery of services and to ensure continuity of services provided to clients in the future.
(c) Social workers’ documentation should protect clients’ privacy to the extent that is possible and appropriate and should include only information that is directly relevant to the delivery of services.
(d) Social workers should store records following the termination of services to ensure reasonable future access. Records should be maintained for the number of years required by state statutes or relevant contracts.
(a) Social workers should provide clients with reasonable access to records concerning the clients. Social workers who are concerned that clients’ access to their records could cause serious misunderstanding or harm to the client should provide assistance in interpreting the records and consultation with the client regarding the records. Social workers should limit clients’ access to their records, or portions of their records, only in exceptional circumstances when there is compelling evidence that such access would cause serious harm to the client. Both clients’ requests and the rationale for withholding some or all of the record should be documented in clients’ files.
(b) When providing clients with access to their records, social workers should take steps to protect the confidentiality of other individuals identified or discussed in such records.
Later in the conversation the fact that I’d received a copy of my questionnaire after my last request came up. Diane wanted to know who had given that to me. She sounded shocked and appalled that I had it. After searching through my email I found that 2009 email. It was from Diane herself. I emailed her back with that information, but got no response.
We spoke last week when I called to request copies of any and all written documents that pertain to me (forms, case notes, etc). Again I understand that legal documents are sealed (although as a social worker who works in adoption I find it incredibly hard to believe your claim that you do not have copies). I also understand that in certain notes you may need to redact [J]and [M]’s names or other identifying information even though I already know all that information. I will also use this opportunity to reiterate the information you may need to locate my records. My full name at the time of the adoption is [KatjaMichelle] and my dob is [redacted]. My son [Kidlet] was born [redacted] at [redacted] in [redacted] although it may be listed as [redacted]. He was adopted by [J] and [M]. Please let me know if there is any additional information that would help in this matter.
I understand you may not have yet had time to retrieve my file from your archives, however I found the answer to your question. You wanted to know the name of the person at your organization that had provided me with a copy of my questionnaire after my last request for my records. It appears to have been you. I exchanged emails with you in 2009, which led to you providing me with my questionnaire.
I look forward to receiving my records,
I’d like to point out that it took all of five seconds to redact this email I doubt it’d take much longer to redact my records if need be. I know this because I often redact records at the adoption agency for which I work. That’s right I’m not just a birth mother looking in from the outside Diane. I work at an adoption agency, only apparently I work at an agency with ethics and you work at a facilitation service with no ethics. Diane’s bio on the Lifetime site quotes her as having said,
Many people take birthparents for granted, They need our support, they need someone to just listen and then get them the help they are seeking. And most importantly, they need to know that their child is growing up happy and healthy.
What she doesn’t say is that she is one of those people who take us birth parents for granted. That while she’s willing to pretend to listen she is certainly not willing to give the help we need. What I need is not to know how my son is growing up, I already have that information. What I need is exactly what I asked for, my records.
Diane goes on to say,
Adoptive parents should know how important those cards and photos are to a birthparent, especially one without family support.
First off, what does a birth parent’s family support or lack thereof have to do with the importance of ongoing contact? Second of all cards and photos is just a small sliver of what contact can be. Third, the reason I went to her bio was to find out if she had any real social work training or experience. Her education/training is not listed. Her favorite kind of cake is (white with white frosting) but nothing about what qualifies her to be in this field.