The Division of Family Services officials say they're in a "no-win" situation after an adoption committee in the division refused to approve an adoption that has received a lot of media attention this week.
Fred and Linda Bullock have been foster parents to 4-year-old "J.J." for three years but may not be able to keep her because the state refuses to approve an adoption."We're going to look bad regardless of what we do," said Julie Bradshaw, constituent services specialist for the Department of Social Services.
"The difficulty for us is that we have a family choosing to reveal their understanding of a problem, but the state doesn't have the option of responding, because we cannot reveal confidential information. The only thing that makes it OK is that the judge will have access to everything - all the information - when he makes a decision."
Both the division and a 3rd District Court judge have refused to permit the adoption, and the state has notified the Bullocks that it intends to remove the child from their home, Bradshaw said.
The Bullocks, in turn, are seeking an injunction to prevent the state from taking the child. That hearing, before Judge Michael Murphy, has been continued until Tuesday.
Murphy also issued an order restraining the media from revealing "J.J.'s" real name or picture.
Mrs. Bullock told reporters she had been told adoption was denied because she was "too old and too fat."
"With any adoption, we do consider the health of the individuals, their age, financial stability, parenting skills, family dynamics and even what placement in a particular home could mean to the child when she is 15 or 16," Bradshaw said. "We also try to make sure that parents have stick-with-it qualities. While it might be hard for a young child who has physical difficulties to be removed from a home, it would be much worse were it to happen when the child is older."
"J.J." is considered a special-needs child because she has cerebral palsy and wears leg braces.
Bradshaw said that state screening for an adoption is more intense than for a foster home because "it's a lifelong commitment. And there's no one who knows the case who doesn't consider the implications of removing the child," she said.
"There's not much I can say about a specific case or why we reached this decision, but it was not a decision made by one person. And no one making this decision had a vested interest or anything to gain from denying this family. We are trying to do what is best for the child, based on confidential information."
If the court refuses to permit the adoption, "J.J." will be placed in a "foster-adopt" home with a family that has already been approved to adopt but functions as a foster family.