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Woman Met Adoption Requirements, D.C. Officials Say

By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

D.C. officials said yesterday that Renee D. Bowman followed the proper procedures for adopting three children and passed the background check and home study required for adoptive parents.

"Based on my review of the evidence today, all that happened," said Peter Nickles, the city's acting attorney general. He said that as part of a federal program for parents who take in "special needs" children, Bowman received a total of $2,400 a month for the three girls.

The special-needs designation can mean that children are part of a sibling set or a racial minority group, have a learning disability or were relinquished to the state by their biological parents, among other things.

The city's adoption process involves an investigation into the prospective parent's background and home life, a child-rearing class, interviews and other evaluations. The final approval comes from a judge in the Superior Court's family division.

Bowman cleared the hurdles despite a 1999 conviction on one misdemeanor count of "threats to do bodily harm." She was given a six-month suspended sentence and put on supervised probation for a year, according to Superior Court records.

D.C. officials said at a news conference that they were unaware of the case and did not know whether a misdemeanor conviction would prevent an adoption. The private agency that did the background check, the Baltimore-based Board of Child Care, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

"Whenever there's any kind of a criminal history, it's always carefully evaluated," said Janice Goldwater, executive director of the nonprofit Adoptions Together, which works with government agencies in the Washington region. "But there are people that adopt children that have misdemeanors."

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who denounced social workers' handling of the Banita Jacks case this year, pointed out that the adoptions were approved before he took office. In the Jacks case, social workers failed to follow up on tips that Jacks abused her four daughters, who were found dead in January.

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