Monday, January 5, 2009

Arkansas Bans Unmarried Two-Parent Adoptions

On this past election day, Arkansas passed a law that went into effect on January 1st. The law, known as Act 1 reads:

Act 1, the Arkansas Unmarried Parent Adoptive Ban:


Section 1: Adoption and foster care of minors.
(a) A minor may not be adopted or placed in a foster home if the individual seeking to adopt or to serve as a foster parent is cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of a marriage which is valid under the constitution and laws of this state.
(b) The prohibition of this section applies equally to cohabiting opposite-sex and same-sex individuals.

This essentially means:

  • This proposal bans anyone who is unmarried from serving as a foster or adoptive parent— regardless of sexual orientation
  • It affects both private and public adoptions.
  • It is unclear whether single people living alone will be prohibited from adopting children.

There is so much wrong with this that I hardly know where to begin.

I think I'll start with the simple fact that there are approximately half a million children in the United States today awaiting adoption, many of whom who have no hope of being placed in foster or adoptive families of any kind before reaching adulthood. In Arkansas, some 3,700 children are in state custody, taken from their homes because of abuse and neglect. Of those, 960 kids (average age: 8.5 years) are available for adoption, said Julie Munsell of the state Department of Human Services. Of the 1,100 foster homes, one-third are headed by single people.

Opponents of Act 1 say the new law could jeopardize a wide range of non-traditional living arrangements, such as co-habitating grandparents raising grandchildren, and are not sure how far-reaching the effect will be.

Conservative proponents of this law simply brush aside the practical difficulties of such a law. John Thomas, vice president of the Arkansas Family Council, a conservative group that pushed to get the initiative on the ballot, said, I understand that there is a lack of homes, but I refuse to believe that the choice is between a horrible situation and a so-so situation."

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, disagreed, saying that "the only criteria should be who can best provide a loving, permanent home."

Indeed. The presence or lack of a state-issued marriage license is irrelevant and no predictor of a couple's capacity to provide a loving home for a child. In my years on the police force, I saw plenty of neglectful and abusive families of all types. The fact that the parents have a license from the state declaring them official, legal sex partners neither confers magical parenting abilities nor does protect children from shitty, abusive parents. Conversely, the lack of state sanction for one's intimate does not make it follow that one is incapable of providing a loving, permanent home for a child.

It is the quality of the relationship between the parents that matters when judging them to be fit adoptive parents, not the form that relationship takes.

I'd also like to ask Mr Thomas whether he really believes it is better for parentless children to remain warehoused in institutional care rather than being adopted by a loving family, simply because the parents did not seek the licensing of their relationship by the state or the church?

I'd also like to note make legal marriage mandatory for would-be adoptive parents is to impose religiously-based morality on secular laws, making it a violation of the separation of church and state.

I can only hope that this law is soon overturned.

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