Adoption Reform Committee
Springfield, IL 3/26/14
First, a special thanks to my Superhero Trauma Mamas and Trauma Papas who accompanied me to the hearing-Sheila Trznadel, Jeana Lindell, Amy Garcia, Antoinnette Bohanan, Robert Huck and Wally Busch. We had representation across the state!
Second, a very special shout out to the two young men who had the courage to speak to the legislators about the effects of the system on them and their peers-Schuyler Walker and my son, Daniel Hoy. More about that in a bit.
Third, a special thank you to the 90 proponents of the bill which far outweighed the few opponents, especially NAMI, which supported this bill in FORCE. Numerous NAMI affiliates signed on in support and I felt an extra dose of strength when I glanced over and saw NAMI IL Executive Director, Lora Thomas, enter the room and greet me with her giant smile!
The committee addressed several bills and got to our bill last. The committee voted unanimously to accept the amended bill and we watched it be voted on and move from the Rules Committee back to the Adoption Reform Committee. Two of our opponents were DCFS and HFS. A summation of their reasons:
- Concern about too many youth entering residential placements/least restrictive placements
- Concern about who makes the decision about residential placement
- Played up future plans to improve system
As an aside, while HFS expressed concern over who made the decision for RTC, Amy Garcia testified from her case that DCFS attempted to have their LCSW overrule the recommendation of her children’s PhD.
- Concern about extreme financial burden
- Stated it does not fall on their agency, rather HFS
As an aside, after hearing my testimony and my statements concerning being charged with neglect as a mechanism for obtaining funding, DCFS stated that they “don’t charge anyone with anything.” ????!!!! Several of the parents in the room, including me HAD been charged or threatened to be charged.
Unfortunately, from our group, only me, Amy Garcia, and my son, Daniel had an opportunity to testify, partially because the agencies took much more time in their testimonies. Christine Walker, an ICG parent and her son, also testified as proponents, stating their disagreement with relinquishment and their gratitude that it hadn’t happened to them, as well as sadness for others they knew who were forced into it. They both stressed the importance of some youth needing long term services and maintaining family support. We were not allowed enough time for everyone to be heard.
I was most impressed by my son Daniel’s testimony for so many reasons. He has had over a year of stability and I am so thankful that he was able to get up and speak to the legislators with the personal conviction that he showed. A copy of his talk appears at the close of this post.
After he spoke, State Rep. Sommer faced us both and offered a sincere, hearfelt apology for what our family endured, continuing to state that relinquishment is a terrible problem which MUST be fixed. State Rep. Feigenholtz continued by saying that this is more than a financial or systemic issue but a “moral issue” which is unfathomable that it has continued to exist for as long as it has, on the scale that it has, that nothing has been done about it, and that we simply cannot allow it to continue any longer.
After that Rep. Sommer excused himself to go to another committee and Daniel excused himself to go to the restroom, taking my book, “Second Time Foster Child” with him. A moment later, he returned with pen and book in hand, and with a smile on his face told me that Rep. Sommer would like my autograph.
After the hearing, parents split into two groups with Fact Sheets, copies of family stories, and copies of my book and passed them out at the State Rep. offices. Some very cool things happened along the way.
At one of the offices, we were a bit confused as about where to go, so we asked if we were allowed to enter a certain hallway. The aide told us, “This is YOUR building. We just work here. This is YOUR building and you may go wherever you like!” How many of us remember that our Capitol is OUR building?
Daniel learned quickly from our advocacy and completely on his own, began approaching the legislative aides and began advocating for HB 5598! For a young man of 19 years, who spent 5 years in RTC’s to be at the Capitol advocating for himself with State Representatives gave me such pride and joy that I have not felt in a very, very long time! Proud, proud Mommy moments!
Daniel’s state rep. is Rep. Greg Harris and I pointed that out to him when we arrived Rep. Harris’ office. When the legislative aide realized that “Second Time Foster Child” was about one of Rep Harris’ constituents, she handed the book back to Daniel and asked him to write inside the cover the reasons he wanted him to pass HB 5598. I had another proud Mommy moment when he was happy to oblige.
Overall, we believe we made an impression on the state reps. Currently, the bill drafters are reconvening with HFS and DCFS to address their concerns and possibly make another amendment. We made an impact, but we have a ways to go. The bill will be read two more times, will likely see another amendment and then have the final vote in the House. After that, we need to follow it through the Senate in the same manner and hope that it’s signed by the Governor as law. I have faith that the state agencies, the legislators, and the advocates can come to an agreement on the final language which serves children and families well.
See the Reuters article on the Trznadel family http://www.reuters.com/investigates/adoption-follows/#article/part3 Sheila Trznadel attended the hearing but was not allowed time to speak.
I close this post with the speech that Daniel so reverently delivered before attentive legislators and teary-eyed parents:
My name is Daniel Hoy and I am 19 years old. DCFS removed me from my biological family when I was 6 months old. I was lethargic and starving to death. The hospital fed me with an eyedropper once an hour to keep me alive. When I was 2 yrs old, I went to live with my adoptive parents, Jim and Toni Hoy. I was too little to remember being severely neglected, but I have learned that the trauma damaged my brain to where I could not regulate my emotions.
When I got to be 10 years old, I became violent and aggressive and I couldn’t control it. After the 11th psych hospitalization when I was 12 yrs old, my parents told me that they had to leave me at the hospital so they could have funding for a residential placement.
I was very scared. I didn’t know who was going to take care of me or where I was going. A DCFS worker picked me up from the hospital and took me to a group home. When I asked about my parents, she told me they were in trouble. I had never been around other kids like the ones in the group home. They were gang members, substance abusers, and sex offenders. Another DCFS worker visited me a few more times, intensely interrogating me if my parents hit me or abused me. I was confused because my parents are good people and were always helping other people.
I spent 5 yrs in 3 different residential centers. I missed my parents, my brothers and sister, and my home a lot. Every month, a DCFS worker interrogated me about whether my parents abused me. Sometimes CASA and the GAL also interrogated me. I felt like they were posing the questions so that no matter how I answered them, my parents looked bad. The CASA volunteer lied to me and bribed me with monetary things and tried to convince me that my parents hurt me.
I hated when DCFS workers called me “my child” or the CASA worker called me “my CASA child.” I belong to my parents and I eventually stood up for myself and started telling them so. I hated that everytime I needed permission for something, I had to call the DCFS caseworker and ask to go on a field trip or go to a school dance. I just wanted to call my mom like every other kid.
I could see the stress and pressure that was put on my parents, especially my mom. That hurt me a lot and I feel a lot of guilt that my parents suffered so much to help me get treatment. I love my parents and I should not have lost them for any amount of time for a chance at getting better.
I am now in a transitional living program. Staff helps me with medicine, therapy, school, work, and living skills. I have made a lot of progress over the last year. I need all the services that I’m getting and I still need my parents too. Without either one of them, I would be on the streets or in jail. I don’t want any other kids to go through what me and my family did. Please pass HB 5598 and because my mom fought so hard for me, I hope you call it Daniel’s Law.
Filed under: custody relinquishment, HB5598 | 3 Comments »