Michigan Reduces Adoption Backlog; Now How About Second-Parent Adoption?

Kid looking through playground bars

A wonkish little report out of Michigan hails a 14 percent increase in adoptions across a thirteen-county area from 2007 to 2008, after efforts focused on identifying and removing obstacles to finalizing adoptions of children “who had a goal of adoption and an identified adoptive parent, yet had been waiting for more than a year for the adoption to be finalized.”

Aiming really high aren’t we?

And yet, there were almost 800 kids in that situation, so it clearly needed fixing, and good on them for sitting down and doing it.  If we can’t make that work, lord knows how we’ll offer kids permanency in other, harder situations.

The identified obstacles and their solutions were largely bureaucratic—things like “refer a case to an adoption caseworker as soon as previous parental rights are terminated” and “make sure everyone has the same checklist of what paperwork adoptive parents need to fill out.” Along with head-slappingly obvious points like those (which doesn’t mean they are head-slappingly easy to implement, I realize), there was also the wise yet slightly chilling repeated recommendation to start adoptive planning before parental rights termination is complete. This is the right thing to do for the kids’ transitions, but since termination isn’t over until it’s over, I can’t read about this without thinking of the “preadoptive” parents who put their hearts on the line that much more, as well as the birth parents struggling to get it together feeling that much more expected to fail.

Looking at the issue a little more broadly, the report also concluded that a primary barrier to permanency for kids in foster care was “shortage of adoptive homes, especially for special-needs children.” Also the miserable bureaucracy may be partly to blame, the Coalition for Adoptive Rights Equality notes that one of the problems might be the part where unmarried couples can’t adopt—and is calling for the passage of a second-parent adoption bill that was passed out of committee in April, which would help not only same-sex couples, but unmarried opposite-sex couples and pairs of relatives (aunt and grandmother, etc.).

Photo by publik15.

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