Sunday, November 21, 2010

MEDIA: Oklahoma - Full accounting of adoptions in Oklahoma sought

Full accounting of adoptions in Oklahoma sought
The co-chairman of an Oklahoma legislative task force says filing adoptions with the court clerk's office in the county where they are finalized would help eliminate questionable adoptions.

Published: November 20, 2010

An accounting of all adoptions in the state is needed to head off the potential for abuse like mothers wrongfully giving up maternal rights or being overcompensated for their babies, a lawmaker said Friday.

Rep. Jason Nelson, co-chairman of the legislative Adoption Review Task Force, said only the number of adoptions through the Department of Human Services is made public.

The agency finalized 1,698 adoptions during the 2010 fiscal year, an agency spokeswoman said Friday.

Adoptions handled by private agencies and by attorneys, who negotiate directly between mothers and the adoptive families, are not made public, said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City.

“We have no idea how many adoptions take place nor do we catalog the types of adoptions,” Nelson said. “Right now we're just flying blank; we have no idea how many of them take place, what the average cost is. We have no clue. We can't even ballpark it.”

A suggestion by a task force member is to require all adoptions be filed with the court clerk's office in the county where they are finalized.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish, a task force member, said during Friday's meeting that she has been told some Oklahoma County attorneys are going to Canadian County to file court papers to terminate birth mothers' parental rights.

“That makes me wonder if they're doing the same thing with these contracts,” Nelson said, referring to contracts attorneys had birth mothers sign stating they would give up their parental rights before the baby is born. “You can't terminate parental rights until the child is born; it's an illegal contract.”

The task force is working on recommendations to beef up a measure authored by Nelson that became law last year. That measure requires public reporting of adoption expenses to allow judges and the public to see the actual costs attorneys charge in adoptions.

It also requires that only one prospective adoptive family at a time be billed for a birth mother's expenses and that all adoptions must be conducted in one of four locations — the home county of the birth mother, the home county of the adoptive parents or in Oklahoma or Tulsa counties.

The law was intended to stop attorneys from shopping for judges who don't ask too many questions about the fees attorneys charge for adoptions and to prevent attorneys from having families bid against each other to adopt a child, Nelson said.

The measure was the result of findings of a state grand jury four years ago that found that some adoptive parents had been forced to pay for vehicles, car parts, traffic tickets, television sets and other items which were masked as adoption costs.

The haphazard regulation of adoption expenses created an atmosphere in which some women and their attorneys effectively sold children, the report states.

Nelson said he is seeking more transparency in the adoption process without compromising the confidential nature of the process.

“Before, the confidential nature of the process allowed these bad practices to creep in and become part of how adoptions were done by some attorneys and judges,” he said.

“It's part of the overall goal here to give everybody confidence that our adoption process in Oklahoma is not corrupt,” Nelson said, “and to make adoption a more attractive option in Oklahoma than abortion.”

Task force members made suggestions to define and exclude expenses that can be considered adoption costs. Housing expenses and necessary utilities, such as electric, gas, water or telephone bills would be considered reasonable and necessary living expenses for the birth mother; purchase of a vehicle would not be.

A draft will be prepared next month and a final report is to be issued in January. Nelson said some of the report's findings likely will be used to file legislation for the upcoming session that begins in February.

Read more:

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

1 comment:

david_hatton said...

Hello! another fantastic blog; im a regular follower of your blogs. beautifully written. me and my partner are looking to adopt at some point and any help we can get we welcome.

think you might enjoy my blogs, some articles may interest you, feel free to check them out

in the mean time, keep up the good work,

all the way from england,

David Hatton