adoption

Zeke Anders
screenshot / YouTube

November is National Adoption Month.

That nation-wide focus on adoption can cause anyone in the birth triad to do some extra reflecting, whether birth parent, adoptive parent or adoptee.

Zeke Anders is an adoptee who grew up in Dearborn. He's now a filmmaker in Los Angeles.

Zeke has shared his adoption journey through a vlog - a video blog called "American Seoul" - as in Seoul, South Korea, where he was born.

Zeke Anders joined us today.

*Listen to our conversation with Anders above.

Michigan Supreme Court

Stepparent adoption just became more difficult in the state of Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has upheld a state law that says a stepparent cannot adopt a child if the biological parents share joint custody.

In the decision, Justice Brian Zahra wrote that stepparents wanting to do so would have to be married to a spouse with sole legal custody of the child. That means going back to court and petitioning for sole custody before the stepparent can adopt. 

Debra Keehn is a family law attorney in Ann Arbor. She said the added legal step is going to make adoption more difficult for families.
 
"All of that takes a lot of time and a lot of money and it puts a big financial burden, I think, on a family who’s trying to increase the security of a child."
 
The court ruled in the case of a couple who divorced in 2009.

The mother remarried a year later and petitioned to have her new husband adopt her child. She argued that the child's father had not made contact or sent any money in over two years. But the ruling said she would have to petition a court for sole custody of her child before her new husband could adopt.

The court's decision was unanimous.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Parents looking to adopt a child in Michigan could soon have a little less red tape to deal with. That's if Governor Snyder signs off on a package of bills the legislature just passed.  

For parents like Kimberly Naik of Holland, the adoption process started when her son was less than a year old ... and didn't finish until he was three and a half. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

In This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rina Miller and political analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss bills in Lansing to penalize poor people who use drugs, a delay in the decision over gay marriage, and the sentencing of Bernard Kilpatrick.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children.

In the years that they’ve lived together, Rowse has adopted two children, and DeBoer adopted one, splitting the responsibilities of parenthood together. But a state ban on same-sex joint adoptions prohibited them from officially adopting their children together.

So in January 2012, DeBoer and Rowse filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that preventing such adoptions violated rights of their children.

But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman told the couple to take their complaint further — challenge the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

It’s a long shot, but there is a chance.

If federal Judge Bernard Friedman overturns the same-sex marriage ban tomorrow, that could open a small window for Michigan’s same-sex couples to legally marry in this state.

How small would that window be? Teeny. Maybe just a few hours, maybe days.

That’s because a ruling against the marriage ban would be almost immediately appealed by Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette. He’d also ask the appeals court to put a temporary freeze on Friedman’s ruling until the higher court decides the case.

If you’ve ever read Oliver Twist, or maybe even if you haven’t, you may remember the famous quote about a kink in the judicial system. “If the law supposes that, the law is an ass, an idiot.” Dickens wrote those lines in another country 175 years ago. But things aren’t much different here and now, and as evidence, consider two nurses in suburban Detroit.

Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer are Michigan-certified foster parents, and the state is lucky to have them. DeBoer is a nurse in an NICU unit: Neonatal Intensive Care. Rowse, in an emergency room.

They indicated they were willing to foster the hardest cases, babies born premature, drug-addicted, who were either abandoned or taken away from the women who bore them.

David Defoe / flickr

Each week, I review the news with political analyst Jack Lessenberry.

Today we discussed Common Core education standards, new details about some practices that led to Detroit's financial crisis, and legislation to refuse adoptions based on religious reasons.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Lawmakers to vote on Common Core

"After months of debate, lawmakers are poised to vote on whether Michigan should continue implementing more rigorous education standards known as Common Core. The House Education Committee today plans to consider a resolution letting the state put in place new uniform math and reading standards," the Associated Press reports.

 Bills move forward to allow faith-based agencies to refuse to process adoptions

"A state House panel has approved legislation to allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children with a family based on a religious objection. Instead, an agency would have to refer a qualified family to an adoption office that would handle the placement," Rick Pluta reports.

Wolf hunt licenses on sale Saturday

Wolf hunting licenses go on sale Saturday. The wolf hunt season will span from Nov. 15- Dec. 31, or until 43 wolves are killed.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state House committee has approved legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to handle placements for religious reasons. Instead, under the legislation, an agency that has an objection would have to refer a qualified family to an adoption office that would handle the placement.

Almost all adoptions in Michigan are handled by private agencies that accept public funding. Faith-based adoption services are concerned future changes to adoption policies – such as allowing same-sex couples to adopt – could force them to violate their religious beliefs.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A legislative committee could vote next week to let faith-based agencies in Michigan refuse to participate in adoptions that violate their beliefs, despite accusations that the legislation would permit discrimination.

Advocates say the bills would codify existing practice into law and preemptively protect adoption agencies from repercussions if Michigan legalizes gay marriage or civil unions.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Gov. Snyder will answer questions on Detroit bankruptcy

"Gov. Rick Snyder has agreed to answer questions in a deposition about his decision to let Detroit file for bankruptcy protection. Attorneys for Snyder and other state officials had been resisting testifying based on executive privilege. Unions opposed to the bankruptcy say Snyder's sworn testimony is important. They say Detroit is ineligible for Chapter 9, a process that could let the city shed billions in long-term debt," the Associated Press reports.
 

Proposal to allow religious and moral objections in adoption placements

A bill being considered in the state House would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children in homes based on religious or moral beliefs. More details on the bill can be found here.

Increased hunting and fishing fees move forward

"Michigan lawmakers have given final approval to the first significant increase in hunting and fishing license fees since 1997. Legislation passed by the House will raise about $20 million more, a 40 percent boost," the Associated Press reports. More details on the fees can be found here.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

The state attorney general’s office has filed its response to a lesbian couple’s claim that Michigan’s marriage and adoption laws discriminate against their children.

Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer are suing the state to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage. The amendment to the Michigan Constitution was approved by voters in 2004.

Rowse and DeBoer originally sued to win rights to jointly adopt the three children they’re raising together. U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman suggested they should expand their challenge to include the marriage amendment. So they filed a 34-point amended complaint last September. It says the marriage amendment violates their family’s rights to equal protection.

Expanding the scope of the lawsuit upset social conservatives like Gary Glenn of the American Family Association. He helped draft the amendment and was a leader of the campaign to adopt it.

“We believe it’s the duty of the governor of this state and the attorney general to enforce state law and uphold and defend the vote of the people and our state constitution,” Glenn said. “Even in the face of a decision by a federal judge who presumes to take it upon himself to have the power to overrule millions of Michigan voters.”

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Federal judge will hear challenge to gay marriage ban

A federal judge is allowing a legal challenge to Michigan adoption laws and its ban on same-sex marriage to move forward. Judge Bernard Friedman says the decision to strike down DOMA last week left unanswered questions that could be addressed by this case. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are raising three children together; they say Michigan law violates the equal protection rights of their children. The judge called a July 10th hearing to chart the next steps in the case.

Legislation to improve legal defense for indigent Michiganders

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation yesterday that will make changes to the state’s public defense system. The bill will create a commission to set statewide standards to ensure effective legal representation for poor defendants. The commission will also monitor counties to make sure each one is meeting those standards.

Flint EM warns possibility of bankruptcy

Flint's Emergency Manager, Ed Kurtz, warns the city could run out of money if it's forced to pay retirees full health benefits. A federal judge recently ruled Flint has to give retired workers the benefits they were promised. Kurtz says the decision hurts retirees more than it helps and that bankruptcy would mean much bigger cuts for retirees and current workers.

stevendamrun / Flickr

If you’re gay or lesbian and you want to adopt a child, not every adoption agency in Michigan will be willing to help. If you do find an agency that will help, you might run into more discrimination.

Even if you have a home, pass the background checks, and otherwise meet the state requirements for adoption, you can be turned down by an adoption agency if you don’t meet its standards.

user Samahiaka18 / wikimedia commons

About a decade ago, judges stopped approving adoptions for lesbian and gay couples. It stopped after a controversial move by a Supreme Court Judge.

Nancy Wheeler is a judge in Washtenaw County who used to preside over the juvenile court where adoptions are recognized. She granted dozens of what are called ‘second-parent adoptions’ to same-sex couples.

“I thought that it was an outrage that we encouraged and, in fact, had a lot of gay and lesbian foster parents, but didn’t allow both parties to adopt the children. So, these children had been in foster care with these same parents sometimes for a number of years and then they were adopted by one,” Judge Wheeler explained.

She reasoned if one person could be an adoptive parent, then two could.

Love-Ramirez family

In Michigan, if you’re gay or lesbian, you can’t get married.

And for LGBT partners who adopt children it’s nearly impossible for both to have parental rights. That causes legal difficulties in providing a secure future for the kids they’re raising.

Two-year-old Lucas has two dads, Kent and Diego Love-Ramirez.

Diego is an airline pilot, and Kent works at Michigan State University.

“We’ve been together just over ten years. And we married in a religious ceremony five years ago and just legally married in Washington, D.C.," said Kent.

Kent and Diego are the only parents Lucas has ever known. But, the State of Michigan does not recognize one of them as a parent.

There's a special  screening tonight at the AMC Livonia 20 of the documentary "Stuck." It was an Audience Choice Winner at the Heartland Film Festival.

The film focuses on the process of international adoption and the  children and prospective parents who get "Stuck" in that process.

"Stuck" tells the story of four children and the families who want to adopt them following the children and families as they try to negotiate the bureaucratic ins and outs of the international adoption system.

Film producer Craig Juntunen joined us today along with Kendra Pinkelman. Pinkelman and her husband are trying to adopt a boy from Russia.

That adoption process came to a grinding halt when Russia banned U.S. adoptions last December.

And the Director of the Eastern Michigan Office of Adoption Associates, one of Michigan's leading agencies for international and domestic adoptions, Paula Springer also joined us. She has worked in the adoption field for some 30 years.

Listen to the full discussion above.

Dave Crispin/Facebook

There is a growing trend on Facebook of people setting up pages devoted to finding their birth parents.

It’s helped some adoptees. But some long time advocates worry that such a public search could create barriers to a reunion.

Dave Crispin has known since he was about eleven years old that he was adopted.

“It’s like the big unanswered question in my life,” Crispin says at the dinner table of his Springport, Michigan home, “I don’t know where I’m from.”

Don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the current lame duck session of the legislature is trying to do about as much as lawmakers normally do in about ten years. Now I am sure that’s an exaggeration, but it doesn’t feel like one.

Consider this. In a single day, the governor and the Republican majority pushed through the most momentous labor legislation in years, taking the once inconceivable step of outlawing the union shop and making Michigan a so-called right to work state.

They aren’t stopping there, however: The governor is going to have to make a decision on four bills, or parts of bills aimed at making it harder for women to get abortions in Michigan.

For the last two years, lots of people have believed that Rick Snyder may be a pro-business fiscal conservative, but that he was really a moderate on social issues. Well, now we are about to find out.

presto44 / Morgue File

Michigan adoption agencies would be able to refuse to place kids with families who violate the agency's religious or moral convictions. 

That's under a new bill proposed in the state legislature.

Private agencies can already use faith-based principles when it comes to adoption, like not placing kids with homosexual parents.

But this bill would make it illegal to deny agencies funding or licenses because of their convictions.

user robscomputer / Flickr

Legislation would give private adoption agencies the legal right to turn down prospective parents for any moral or religious reason.  That’s what’s in a pair of bills being considered by lawmakers in Lansing.

The bills would guarantee private adoption agencies working on state contracts would be protected from rules that could compromise their religious or moral convictions.

Michigan’s Department of Human Services is being sued for failing to disclose to parents that their adoptive children had special needs and therefore qualified for federal aid.

David Kallman is an attorney representing 8 families in the case.  He says because they didn’t know their children had disabilities, so they missed a deadline to claim these benefits for their adopted children, and are now struggling with major medical bills.

He says the families love their kids and want to help them.   But the expenses are decimating them.

A spokesman for DHS says they can’t comment on the case, since the suit won’t be filed until tomorrow, but that they investigate all allegations into wrongdoing.

- Chris Edwards, Michigan Radio Newsroom

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

One-woman jury looks into Bolger and Schmidt allegations

Judge Rosemary Aqualina will be the one-person grand jury to look into whether state House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Representative Roy Schmidt broke any laws when they plotted to rig an election. Schmidt and Bolger plotted the Grand Rapids lawmaker’s switch to the Republican Party, and recruited a fake Democrat to appear on the ballot so Schmidt would avoid a reelection fight. 

54.5 mpg by 2025

The federal government has finalized new rules to require cars and trucks get an average 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. That's almost double what the fuel efficiency standards are today. However, the target is higher than the real-world average in 2025.  The average new car will get 45 miles per gallon, and the average truck will get 32 mpg.

Ban on adoption by unmarried couples challenge

The state of Michigan is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges a ban on adoption by unmarried couples. The lawsuit is led by two Detroit-area lesbians who are raising three children. State law says that April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse can't adopt them as a couple, an option available only to heterosexual married couples. DeBoer and Rowse say their civil rights are being violated. Detroit federal Judge Bernard Friedman will hear arguments Wednesday.

Rowse/DeBoer

A lesbian couple from metro Detroit is suing to overturn a state law that prevents same-sex couples from jointly adopting children.

"We're doing anything any parent would do," said April DeBoer, who has adopted a daughter, 2. Her partner Jayne Rowse has adopted two sons, ages 3 and 2. But they are prevented by state law from adopting the children jointly.

"I am not recognized [by the state]," DeBoer said. "I'm a legal stranger to my sons."

The couples' attorneys say the law’s effects on DeBoer's and Rowse's three children are “devastating.”

A bill pending in the state legislature could speed up adoptions in Michigan. 

State law requires all adoptions be approved by only one person – the superintendent of the Michigan Children’s Institute.

That leads to delays of up to two months in getting an adoption finalized.

Maura Corrigan is Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services.

She says the superintendent should be able to choose people to act in his stead.

"We’ll be able to have the adoptions approved locally by one of his designees, instead of every local case going to Lansing and be looked at there," says Corrigan.

There are more than 4,000 children eligible for adoption in Michigan.

Wayan Vota / Flickr

Democrats at the state Capitol are calling for a law that would allow unmarried couples to adopt children. Right now only married couples or individuals can adopt children. 

State Representative Jeff Irwin says it makes sense to allow couples who want to adopt but can’t get married to share the rights and responsibilities of raising children.

Wayan Vota / Flickr

Democrats at the state Capitol are calling for a law that would allow unmarried couples to adopt children. Right now only married couples or individuals can adopt children. 

State Representative Jeff Irwin says it makes sense to allow couples who want to adopt but can’t get married to share the rights and responsibilities of raising children.

"It’s a pro-family bill. It would assure that in a situation where you’ve  got two loving parents who want to take on the obligations of parenthood that both of those individuals are afforded the opportunity to help a young person in this state by being a parent.”

"Kids thrive in situations where they have two parents, and they struggle in situations where they have one, and so the state should be taking every possible opportunity to allow people to adopt kids in such a way as to ensure as many kids as possible have two parents.”

Irwin says joint adoptions would also make it easier to settle visitation and child support issues when a couple breaks up.

It’s not clear how Michigan’s ban on gay marriage or treating same-sex couples as if they are married would affect the effort to allow joint adoptions.

The state Supreme Court could also weigh in on the issue. A lower court recently denied a woman joint custody of the children she was raising with her same-sex partner before they separated. That woman has appealed the decision.

Irwin says no Republicans have signed up to support the legislation. Both the House and the Senate have G-O-P majorities.