March 14, 2013
To: Members of the Judiciary Committee
From: Sarah Forrest, Policy Coordinator- Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Re: Support for LB 380—Second Parent Adoptions
All children deserve to know that their relationships with both of their parents are stable and legally recognized—regardless of their parents’ marital status or sexual orientation. For this reason, Voices for Children would like to express our support for LB 380, which would provide for two unmarried adults to jointly adopt and would clarify current provisions of Nebraska law to allow a second parent to adopt without the first parent losing his or her parental rights to the adopted child. If passed, this bill would have the dual benefit of protecting children and granting families necessary protections under the law. We support this bill because:
- LB 380 has the potential to provide permanency for a greater number of our most vulnerable population. Being removed from their homes and placed in foster care is a difficult and stressful experience for any child. Children who cannot remain in their homes due to safety concerns often struggle with having mixed feelings about attaching to a foster parent, feeling insecure and uncertain about their futures, feeling helpless about multiple changes in foster placements over time and feeling unwanted if awaiting adoption for an extended time.[i] As a result, adoption is always the preferred option to the prospect of having a child “age out” of the foster care system. Single and unmarried couples are often open to adopting an older child, a child of color, or a child with special needs, three of the hardest groups to place.[ii] In fact, in 2004, the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that single and unmarried adults already adopt about 33% of children from state care.[iii] With more than 900 of Nebraska’s children available for adoption[iv] and a disproportionate amount of these children being children of color, LB 380 can help to remove many children from state care.
- Children in a co-parent home need the permanence and security that are provided by having two legally recognized parents. The legal sanctioning of second parent adoptions will serve multiple functions, including: ensuring children will be eligible for health care benefits from both parents and permitting either parent provide consent for medical treatment (in the event that the child requires timely attention and the biological or adoptive parent is otherwise unavailable to give consent).[v] LB 380 will also ensure that children retain the right to continue the parent-child relationship with the co-parent, should the biological/adoptive parent die or become incapacitated. In the absence of second parent adoption legislation, the family of the biological/adoptive parent can challenge the surviving co-parent’s rights to raise the children, thus causing children to effectively lose both parents.[vi]
- LB 380 can create a basis for financial security for children in co-parented homes. The passage of LB 380 establishes the requirement for child support in the event of the parents’ separation and protects the second parent’s right to visit and retain a familial bond with the child, regardless of whether or not the partners remain together. Under present law, at the end of a partnership, the biological/adoptive parent can sever all ties between the child and co-parent and the co-parent is not responsible for the child’s maintenance. Legally recognizing both parents’ responsibility to the children ensures eligibility to federal entitlements such as Social Security and inheritance benefits upon the death of either parent, as co-parents cannot leave federal benefits to children not legally recognized as their own and the children will be taxed on inheritances left by their co-parents as though such inheritances were bequeaths from strangers.[vii]
LB 380 provides legal, emotional and financial stability to children by permitting unmarried couples to jointly adopt and clarifying existing state law permitting a co-parent to adopt a child without the original parent relinquishing any parental rights. For this reason, we urge the committee to advance LB 380.
[i]American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Facts for Families Info Sheet No 64, (2005), http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/foster_care.
[ii] Unmarried Equality, Adoption, last modified March 1, 2013, http://www.unmarried.org/parents-children/adoption/
[iv] Adoption Exchange Association & Adopt US Kids, Information on Nebraska’s Waiting Children, last modified 2012. http://www.adoptuskids.org/for-families/state-adoption-and-foster-care-information/nebraska
[v]Leslie M. Fenton & Ann Fenton, “The Changing Landscape of Second Parent Adoptions”, American Bar Association: Children’s Rights Litigation, October 25, 2011, http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/childrights/content/articles/fall2011-changing-landscape-second-parent-adoptions.html.
[vi] Joseph F. Hagan, Jr, MD, Chairperson, et al, “Co-Parent or Second Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents”, Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 125 (2): e444 (2010), doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3160.
[vii] Jason Beekman, “Same Sex Parent Adoption and Intestacy Law: Applying the Sharon S. Model of “Simultaneous” Adoption to Parent—Child Provisions of the Uniform Probate Code”, Cornell Law Review, 96, 1 (2010): 139.