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Making adoption easier

January 06, 1997

Despite the rising number of children being born out of wedlock, too many would-be parents who can't conceive can't find a child to adopt. That fact alone would be reason to applaud a Berkeley County delegate's proposal to improve the adoption process in West Virginia.

Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, said she and Barbara Fleischauer, co-chair of the judiciary subcommittee, want to overhaul the state's adoption law because it's now so poorly written adoptive parents can never be certain an adoption is final.

For example, the biological father has a year from the day he learns about an adoption to contest it, no matter how long ago it took place. The new bill would require the mother to provide extensive information on any man she believed might have fathered the child, so challenges could be handled before the child begins to bond with new parents.

Both Douglas and Fleischauer told The Associated Press that subcommittee's vote will give lawmakers a chance to debate any changes at length.

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One item sure to surface: The rights of grandparents to have first consideration in any adoption proceeding. State Sen. Mike Ross, D-Randolph, opposed the bill in subcommittee because the panel rejected his plan to give grandparents the first chance to adopt any infant their own children were giving up.

Douglas opposes this provision, saying that birth mothers who are estranged from their families may opt against adoption rather than see their own parents raise the child. Moss' proposal also assumes - incorrectly, Douglas feels - that every grandparent would be a good parent. To that we would add that a provision giving grandparents first preference in an adoption would also put a lot of pressure on those who may not have the energy or resources to raise another child to take on the task anyway.

Until the bill's in final form, we'll withhold comment, except to say that Del. Douglas deserves much credit for trying to untangle the briar patch of emotional and legal issues that surround this process.

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