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Iowa regulators may add more adoption oversight after deaths

Posted July 6

— Iowa families that receive state financial assistance in adoptions may see new oversight rules following the recent deaths of two teenagers who were adopted out of state care.

The state Department of Human Services is considering requiring such families to document annual doctor visits for their children, The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/2tt8SCt ) reported.

Requiring the annual check-ups will add another layer of oversight to the state's child welfare system for adopted children, but "we don't think it's an unrealistic expectation. ... It's what good parents do," said Jerry Foxhoven, the department's new director.

Iowa spent about $42 million in fiscal year 2017 to help families that adopted children with special needs or who were difficult to place out of foster care. On average, those families received about $7,700 a year per child.

The new requirement would ensure children are seen by someone in a position to identify abuse or neglect, Foxhoven said. He said the state would be required to come up with a way to document physician visits for children who are adopted with the help of state subsidies.

"I think that absolutely we need to have that safety net in place, because so many of these things will show up in physicals," said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines.

Foxhoven acknowledged there were some concerns, including how to ensure subsidies aren't needlessly revoked from families.

"Say somebody has a busy doctor," he said. "Their year runs out Aug. 1, but they can't get in until Aug. 15. Obviously we don't want to cut off their subsidy for that."

The new requirements are being considered following the deaths of two 16-year-old girls, Sabrina Ray and Natalie Finn, who were home-schooled and isolated from the public after being adopted from state care. Sabrina was severely malnourished and weighed only 56 pounds at the time of her death in May, while Natalie was denied critical care and died of starvation in October, according to a medical examiner.

The adoptive parents of both the girls have been accused of abusing and neglecting the children.

The similar circumstances of the girls' deaths have led to investigations from state legislators, the state ombudsman and Iowa's Child Death Review Team.

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