Friday, January 25, 2013

Adoption Rights

The New York Times has a discussion today here about the adoption of a two-year-old American-Indian girl by a non-Indian family.  The case originated in South Carolina, where state law allowed the biological parents' rights to be terminated after a year.  At that time, the adoption was made permanent. However, there is a federal law saying that any adoption of American Indian children has to be reviewed by an American-Indian board.  Consequently, the little girl has been removed from her adoptive home, where she has been since birth, and given to her biological father.  My comment:

Two things:

1.  Best interest of the child needs to be the overriding factor.  Children are not ketchup  bottles, parceled out to the party that has the best “right” to them.  The first few years of a child’s life have a huge—perhaps defining—role in determining whether or not the child will grow up to be a stable, productive, loving adult.  The earlier the child can be placed in a stable, nurturing home, the better.  One year is plenty of time for the birth parents to try to regain rights.  After that the adoption should be permanent.

2.  If the supreme court agrees with the state court, and allows the birth father to regain rights at this late date, it will have a chilling effect on adoptions nationwide—both for people hoping to adopt, and for adoptive parents.   How can they be sure that the child is theirs to keep?  

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