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Chapman Rackaway: Should be easier to adopt in Kansas

  • Published Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback once made adoptions a public priority. Yet few major changes to Kansas’ broken adoption system have been enacted.

In Ohio, by contrast, a movement is underway to make adoption easier, and Brownback would be very wise to pay attention to it.

As an adopted child and the father of one (with another on the way), I have experienced the highs and lows of a system that has its heart in the right place but breaks hearts because of outdated thinking and restrictive regulation. Excessive paperwork, extreme costs, delays and the opportunities for the unscrupulous to take advantage of potential adoptees prevent many from even considering the process seriously, or force the committed to shift to international adoptions.

The need is staggering: More than 400,000 children in the United States, according to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, are living without forever families. Worldwide, there are more than 150 million orphans. Another 27,000 children “age out” of domestic foster care every year, having never been placed with a family that legally adopted them.

All of the statistics are getting increasingly worse as time goes on.

The time is now to reverse the trend of fewer domestic adoptions and give children who need forever families their opportunity.

The Ohio proposal would significantly shorten the adoption process. Adoption decrees could be finalized by a court 60 days after birth instead of waiting the current standard of 12 months. Further, the proposal would shorten how long biological fathers have to put their name on the state’s putative father registry from 30 days after the birth of a child to seven. Under the proposed law, the state’s tax credit would jump to $10,000 from the existing $1,500, and allow recipients to take the refund over the course of four years.

To reduce fraudulent abuse of adoptive parents who help with pregnancy care, payments of up to $3,000, which adoptive parents can provide to pregnant mothers for living expenses, would no longer directly go to the birth mother. Adoption agencies or attorneys in the adoption would hold the funds and make payments on behalf of the birth and adoptive parents, reducing the likelihood of fraud in the adoption system.

Prospective adoptive parents face innumerable challenges, and the last thing they should have to struggle with is their own government unnecessarily restricting their ability to give a needy child a home. But the existing adoption regime does just that. The time for change is now, and Ohio’s model shows a clear and positive direction for that change.

Chapman Rackaway is a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University.

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