adoption

State Capitol
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The Michigan House yesterday approved legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies that receive state money to turn away couples based on religious objections. Today, legislative Democrats introduced bills to overturn Michigan's same-sex marriage ban.

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The state House has adopted legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to continue to turn away LGBT couples – even if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage.

The bills would continue the current practice that could be threatened by a Supreme Court ruling. Republicans say the agencies shouldn’t be forced to choose between their religious values and performing their mission.

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The state House is poised to vote tomorrow  that would allow faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan to turn away couples based on a religious objection to their lifestyle

  House Republicans rejected a number of amendments in preliminary debate on the legislation. They would have required agencies to put the best interests of children over religious concerns, and to state in advance who they would refuse to serve.  

gop.gov / gop.gov

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Zoe Clark discuss legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse service to LGBT couples, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s call for a moratorium on charter school expansion, and Candice Miller’s announcement that she won’t seek reelection.


Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
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The Supreme Court has announced they plan to hear arguments on two issues around same-sex marriage on April 28. Do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, and are states required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states?

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Legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to work with LGBT couples or anyone else based on moral or religious grounds is headed to the floor of the state House.

A state House committee approved the bills as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on same-sex marriage. 

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This week, Jack and Emily discuss what’s missing from President Obama’s proposed budget, a grant to help Flint’s water woes, and a new bill that would make it legal for unmarried people to jointly adopt children.


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Michigan's adoption law has changed over the years, but many adoptees still have to use a third-party called a "confidential intermediary" when trying to find their birth parent or learn more about their background.

Yesterday, we talked with Michigan Radio listener John Stempien about his experience as an adult adoptee in Michigan, and his frustration at not being able to access his birth records or his birth parents' medical history.

Tina Caudill is a birth mother who reunited with her child and now works as a confidential intermediary. She's also the Michigan representative for the American Adoption Congress.

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Two unmarried people would be able to jointly adopt children together under a bill in the state House. Under current law, only married couples or single individuals can be grated parental rights to an adopted child.

John Stempien

When most of us go to the doctor, we probably don't think twice when we're asked about our family medical history: mom had this disease, dad's got that disease.

We also probably don't think twice about seeing faces that echo our own.

But if you were adopted in Michigan before 1980, these experiences don't come as easily.

Michigan Radio listener John Stempien wrote to us to describe his experiences as a pre-1980 adoptee in Michigan wondering how many others are in the same dilemma.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Adoptions by LGBT parents are at the center of this controversy.
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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.

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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.

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