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Lawmakers Pushed To Prevent Sketchy Adoption Transfers

Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) was honored as a "Superhero for Kids" by the Children’s League of Massachusetts Tuesday, complete with heroic cape and gesturing. He supports a bill to crack down on the transfer of custody of children.
Mike Deehan/WGBH News

Spring in an election year means more on Beacon Hill than just the march of school field trippers into the State House. The blossoming trees and warming weather also signal the most intense round of lobbying to get bills through the Legislature before lawmakers recess in July and don't return until next year.

Take for example an effort to stop "re-homing," the appalling, but currently legal, practice of transferring custody of an adopted child to another party with little to no oversight from authorities. Supporters of S. 2043, including sponsor Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, say some adoptive parents are using the loophole in the law to get rid of children they've adopted and no longer want, sometimes because of undisclosed mental or developmental issues.

Many of the causes that come before lawmakers are undeniably tenderhearted and time-sensitive, which is sometimes what makes it difficult for the 200 lawmakers who fill the House and Senate (and the much smaller group of Democratic leaders who hold sway) to wrinkle out the details of new laws before putting them on the books.

The Senate bill would add restrictions to re-homing and require the state be alerted to custody transfers. It would also force adoption agencies to be forthright about the child's health background and history.

The Children's League of Massachusetts reports cases where parents adopt from foreign countries and later arrange to transfer custody to third parties through arrangements made online.

"It's not working out for you because they have medical issues or behavioral issues and to simply post something on an Internet board and transfer parenthood is just not acceptable in the 21st century," said Brian Condron, director of communications and advocacy at the Home for Little Wanderers.

The re-homing bill was passed in the Senate in November after a debate on how parents who re-home children should be punished, with the bill eventually clearing the chamber with lesser penalties than originally laid out by Flanagan.

"Certainly it is a bill that seems like such a common sense to thing to pass and I don't see—I've heard no opposition to it," Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) told WGBH News after an event Tuesday to push the House to pass the bill.

The bill had been sitting in the House since November and awaits the clearance of the House Ways and Means Committee, a powerful clearinghouse for legislation House leadership may, or may not, want to advance. A spokesman for Chairman Brian Dempsey of Haverhill was mum on the bill's chances of passage this year.

"The legislation (S.2043) remains under review by the Committee and I am not able to offer anything further as to if it will be released or voted upon this session," House Ways and Means Committee Legislative Policy Advisor Chris Bennett told WGBH News in an email.

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