Conflicts Between Priorities in Adoption Placements

Kinship care has long been preferred for kids who can't be parented by their biological parents. Why this preference for kinship care? First, placement with a relative usually provides the child with a continuing relationship with other relatives, including siblings, and possibly including the biological parents. Second, children adopted by relatives are less likely to suffer from identity confusion than they might if adopted by a stranger. Third, kinship placement is likely to be same-race placement, avoiding racial identity issues, too.

Kinship care usually also provides continuity -- a child raised by a grandparent, for example, is being raised by someone they have likely had a relationship with for their entire life.  And continuity of placement is afforded high priority, too.

Placing siblings together is also another recognized priority in adoption placement. Splitting up brothers and sisters is considered a negative thing.

So what should happen when kids are placed with a foster family as newborns because of neglect from biological parents, and then relatives step forward and want to adopt? And what if those relatives are parenting a sibling that the foster parents sent away after one month? This story raises these conflicts among priorities in adoption placement:
 Playing in her tiny plastic kitchen area, Jada is very much in charge. "I cook," the 3 year old announces.

Meanwhile, her twin brother Julian is outside, driving his electric car around their Roswell driveway, a confidant toddler behind the wheel.

This duo is unaware of the battle over who will raise them, and their adoptive parents hope to protect them from that battle as long as possible.

"We just decided maybe this was the time to do it," Lisa Williams said of the decision she and her husband Ted made to become foster parents more than three years ago.

Their own three children were almost grown, and they said they wanted to give back.

Ted talks about the day the twins came to them. "Imagine at noon having a very normal day, and by 6 p.m., you have three children living in your house."

Jada and Julian were five weeks old when they came to the Williams family. Their older brother Jayden was 16 months old. Lisa and Ted said three children was too much, so after a month, Jaydan was moved and they had just the twins.

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When Jada and Julian were 15 months old, Tina Wilson's adoptive brother and his wife, Jeffery and Elissa Wilson, came forward and said they wanted to raise them.

Ted and Lisa wanted to raise them too.

* * *

Here is an example of the twists and turns. On February 28, 2011, Fulton County juvenile court awarded custody of Jada and Julian to Elissa and Jeffery Wilson and the twins were taken from the Williams' Roswell home and were sent to the Wilsons' McDonough home. But that only lasted nine days. That's when the Williams family successfully adopted the twins in Fulton Superior Court. They went and picked the twins up that day.

* * *

Tina Wilson's attorneys at The Fulton County Public Defender's Office would not talk to us on camera, but in a statement say Jeffery and Elissa Wilson are upstanding citizens who want to raise their niece and nephew and reunite them with their older half brother Jayden.

Tina Wilson gave birth to another set of twins a year ago. Right now, she is raising them.

"So this idea that you're going to have all of the biological mother's children raised together under one roof is an impossible dream, and it's a dream for which Jada and Julian should not be sacrificed," Rugh Johnson said.

Jada and Julian are three and a half years old.

* * *

The decision of who will ultimately raise them could come any day.
So what do you think?  How should this case be resolved?  Of course, it's too late now for what the solution should have been -- child welfare authorities should have proactively searched for an in-family placement for the twins in the first place instead of waiting around to see if anyone would step forward. 

But how would you balance these various priorities now, over three years later? Would it make a difference that the kinship caregiver is the adopted brother, not the biological brother, of the biological mother? How do you factor in the fact that there was not previous relationship between these children and the kinship caregiver?  Does it matter that not all of Tina Wilson's children would be parented together regardless of what happens? But isn't it more likely that these twins will have a relationship with Tina's other children if they are being parented by Tina's brother? Does it matter that the foster parents had the opportunity to parent the older brother and rejected him?

Pretend you're the judge.  How would you rule?