A Better Way

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Non-profit. foster care and adoption agency, mental health services for youth and families, services to keep families together.

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

August 2009

We adopted our first child at birth through open domestic adoption. Now we are considering adopting a second child (3-4 years old) through the public system. We are interested in hearing peoples experiences with A Better Way and AASK. Any differences between the agencies; Any positive or difficult experiences with them. We are hoping for a child with few special needs and are open as to race/ethnicity. Thanks. Happy Adoptive Parents

We have kids from A Better Way. I never felt comfortable with them, although there were periods with no problems, and am glad those days are behind us.

Their training was much more geared towards people with no kids. I still remember how bothered my partner and I were when a adoptive parent spoke to the class and said that we could lie about our intention to maintain future contact with the bio family and then cut it off post-adoption by saying it wasn't in the best interests of the child. This was not simply my impression of an inartfully worded statement -- it was clearly the point and was stressed. The instructor stood there and didn't object.

We were clear from the first conversation what children we were able to consider (not overly narrow for the population, we were assured). After a few months of going through the process of considering children and various counties' social workers considering placing their available children, the social worker told us that she thought the children we were willing to consider were not likely to be available and we should just get a newborn. We suggested they might have wanted to tell us that before wasting training, homestudy, and worker resources on us, and they backed off.

That was a lot of our experience -- they would pressure us as the easiest way to resolve some problem, like logistics (even though we were offering loads of flexibility), and after we pushed back another way to solve it would be found. We definitely got the impression that they just viewed it as most convenient to get us to make accommodation, rather than looking at any other possible solutions. As such, they're not above mild threats about being the ones who hold your license and own your homestudy. Generally, you can ignore this.

Don't let yourself be pressured by them, or time, on the placement of a child. If you're willing to wait, it's a much better process.

Through circumstances, we dealt with several social workers -- maybe more than the norm. Generally, they're younger than the County workers and don't stay as long. One was inattentive, one lectured us repeatedly (especially if we asked about any alternatives), and one was generally ok.

The other thing that bothered me was their disregard for the County social workers and the kids' public defenders (foster kids are indigent and are assigned their own lawyer). Throughout our time, starting with training, we heard cracks about how non-responsive everybody but ABW social workers were. I met two county workers and they were both fine. I'm sure there are problems, but ABW uses a broad and insulting brush with the professionals they partner with. In fact, I was reprimanded in different circumstances for contacting my kids' county workers directly, rather than going through ABW. Why? They're too busy to be responsive. But they did respond and had no problem with my calling them directly, since they were issues which had to be handled by the county or they had direct knowledge of.

This makes it sound like our experience was a hostile battleground -- it wasn't. You get along with people and institutions when you have to and our daily interactions were fine. I would especially encourage anyone who is conflict-avoidant to find another path -- you do best if you stand your (reasonable) ground. All said, of course we wouldn't change anything we did since that would mean not having OUR specific kids. But, if I were starting now, I wouldn't use ABW. Not Sending Them Xmas Cards

(editor note: a review was also received for AASK

March 2008

Re: Experiences with Foster Adoption?
I adopted my 19 month old son, whom I brought home as a 1 wk old, thru foster care in alameda county. I recommend working with a private foster/adopt agency. I worked with A Better Way in berkeley and overall found them to be very good. A private agency is free and you get more money and services. You probably will also be matched more quickly since private agencies don't get paid til they place - but also be careful with this and don't feel you have to take the first kid they offer you, make sure you feel the child is one that you can handle and that you feel a real desire to potentially parent that child permanently. if you pass on a placement, don't worry, sadly, there are always more kids. getting a newborn or very young infant is possible, but a toddler is even more likely. The agency should help address issues with your birth kids and help you with adjustments for everyone. I recommend reading Attaching in Adoption to help you determine what you can handle. waiting out the legal stuff is hard, but about 90% of these kids stay and you can determine how much risk you want to take on. I think it's best to look upon the situation as really wanting to give a home to a child who really needs one and if there is an appropriate birth family placement, that could be okay, but the county should determine whether or not that is likely asap, the longer the child is in your home, regardless or non-parent, immediate birth family placement, the more likely he or she will stay. also meeting other foster to adopt parents really helps you to get support and advice from others in your shoes. in regards to other concerns voiced on this listserve regarding ''crackbabies'' - my child was born with certain potential ''challenges'' but he was healthy, and showed no signs of trouble at birth. He is on track developmentally, he is very smart, happy, well-adjusted, very bonded and super cute. if you were to see him on the playground you would not know he was a former foster kid. adopting him thru foster care, though difficult for me at times, was the best thing I ever did. I provided him with a safe, calm ,loving home where he was not aware of all the turmoil going on around him about his future and now he will stay. feel free to contact me direct if you want other info. d

May 2006

Re: Discouraged about fost-adopting an under 6-yr-old
Wow! I don't know which foster family agency you are working with, but the information they are giving you is very much opposite our experience and information. My partner and I are fost/adopting our son. He came to our home at 11 months old and is now 17 months. We are working with A Better Way in Berkeley. We have been repeatedly told that there are MANY children under age 2 needing fost/adopt homes, and they are constantly looking for qualified homes. Our social worker had 3 newborns still at Alta Bates needing placement the same time we were given our son. And we were only in ''the system'' for 3 months prior to his placement with us. Some of these kids may have drug exposure (luckily our son was not), but not all.

These kids are all races, (at last assessment it was nearly one third caucasian, one third African American and one third Latino. I highly recommend giving A Better Way a call and come to some of their free support groups to get more of your questions answered. I would also be more than happy to talk with you some more.

Also, the current mandate in the state of California child welfare system is permanent placement, NOT long term foster or reunification services. Whether that is a good thing or not is another question, but that is their current mandate. There are 10,000 children in California right now available (and eager)for adoption.

A Better Way has already started the process with us of placing another child with us, so our son can have a sibling. The willingness to accept a child under 2 has put us in the ''high desirable'' list in their system.

Please don't let the runaround scare you off. It is a beurocratic system to navigate, but so very worth it. Shoshana

We have almost completed the adoption process of our now 18-month-old daughter, so this may not fall within your age range. We were originally looking for an under-two-year-old because of housing constraints, and after some research ended up doing the fost-adopt approach through A Better Way, an agency based in Berkeley which works with several counties. I would unequivocally recommend them! We've heard horror stories about lost home studies and long delays from people who have gone directly through our county--ABW has smoothed out much of the process and is incredibly supportive of their parents, and also has pre- and post-adoptive services.

As for adopting young children, I have heard that it is not easy. It can takes months to years after placement before a child is freed for adoption (i.e., parental rights are terminated, etc.), and fost/adoption meants that you make a committment to the child knowing that he/she may ultimately be returned to their birth family. Many children who have been removed from their parents will have significant issues--it goes with the territory, and would be equally true with an international adoption, although the exact nature of the issues may be different. That doesn't mean the problems will be dreadful or untreatable, and dealing with them while the child is young makes a huge difference. And everything I've heard about international adoption indicates a similarly lengthy process without the chance to get to know the child before you take them in. Seems at least as risky in its own way.

All that said, sometimes things work out. We were hoping for a newborn and expected a child over 6-months-old because supposedly newborns are never available. But we ended up accepting an emergency placement (which we had had no intention of getting into) of a 4-day-old and have had remarkably smooth sailing through the court process--finalization whould be in a feww weeks!

Best of luck to you--there are a lot of kids who need homes, but the process is sometimes slow, difficult and emotionally risky. Libby

April 2006

Re: Adoptive Parents Support Group for challenging kids
''A Better Way'', phone #:601-0203, is a foster/adopt agency in Berkeley that has no fee (and childcare + Pizza provided!) support groups for parents of adoptive children. Susan Campodonico, who works at Alta Bates, is an excellent occupational therapist who specializes in Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Phone #: (510)204-5217. Good Luck!

August 2003

Browsing through the advice and recommendations about adoption,I noticed there wasn't much discaussion about foster-adoption. This is an excellent option if you are considering adopting a child. The benefits are the support you get, the training, the minimal costs comparatively, and the fact you are giving a home to a child in need. An excellent agency that is located right in Berkeley, is A Better Way Foster Family and Adoption Program. Check it out. They have trainings every two months. They place with two-parent, single parent, and same-sex parent families. The website is www.abetterwayinc.net. I just thought you should know about another local option. Heather