Out of the past: New York adoptive families could face visitation demands from birthparents

Thank you to Naomi Riley for including me in her WSJ piece Thursday on a truly bad New York scheme to empower birthparents whose parental rights have been terminated to petition nonetheless for court-ordered visitation. The quotes from me:

In many cases adoptive parents do arrange with birthparents for some kind of contact after an adoption is completed. “Some adoptive parents are glad to agree to those conditions, and that’s fine for them. Where they have not, it is a very bad idea to adopt a presumption of enforcing such a long-term obligation on unwilling adopters,” notes Walter Olson, an adoptive parent and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

The legislation presents serious logistical concerns as well. What if an adoptive family wants to move across the country? Would the courts be able to prevent them? “Adoptive families are real families and deserve the full rights of other such families unless they have agreed to some other arrangement,” says Mr. Olson.

And more:

In a letter to Gov. Cuomo opposing the bill, the group New York Attorneys for Adoption and Family Formation explained that the law may also violate the due-process rights of adoptive parents. In 2000, they point out, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Washington state law.

Both houses of the New York legislature have now passed the bill, which is supported by legal services groups like the Legal Aid Society of New York City but opposed by the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York (AFFCNY), the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), “which represents nonprofit foster care agencies statewide, and the New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA), which represents county government child welfare directors.” [Michael Fitzgerald, Chronicle of Social Change] AFFCNY has more on its opposition here, and notes: “Adoptive families would have no choice but to hire and pay for legal representation for themselves.”


  • I can’t imagine adopting a child if you have the birth parents looming over your family, like a ticking time-bomb, ready to appear at any time. If it works out by mutual pre-arrangement, fine.

    But there are plenty of adopted children (and adoptive parents) to whom the “adopted” status is just a minor footnote, and certainly don’t intend to have their life turned upside down by a second set of “parents” appearing one day with all the unneeded complexity that brings.

    People have a right to a drama-free simple life!

  • Why might someone have parental rights terminated? Because of drugs or crime or neglect. These are not the sort of birth parents you want dropping by. This is part of the mindless expansion of “rights” that causes grief to people.

  • The process for kids in foster care has to change!
    These kids are be dragged through the mud to “preserve” a “family” that doesn’t exist!
    These politicians need to open their eyes to some of these cases!!! If the bio parents work hard on their plan, I agree the kids should be with their parents.
    When the parents continue to demonstrate violence toward each other and continue using illegal substances they need to loose their ability to parent !
    Don’t continue to put the kids threw these situations and let them lead a Normal life.
    Termination of rights is exactly what it means!
    You don’t get to be a parent!
    The kids need to come first, not the parents!

  • Once again, a simple understanding of the Constitution and what it entails would solve an issue.

    Once parents adopt a child, guess what, they are the parents of said child. That means that they have the right to direct the upbringing of that child as they see fit and can, of course, dictate who gets to see the child. It really is that simple.

    There are problems galore with this:

    (1) Are the adoptive parents going to have to take kids to a prison to see the birth parent(s)? This happens often in custody situations—courts will order a single parent to drive (often hours) to take a kid to prison to see the kid’s other parent. Of course, all on the single parent’s nickel.

    (2) Plaut v NH issues–obviously, these are state court decrees, but legislation cannot rip open the effect of settled judgments.

    (3) Let’s say visitation is granted—how much say do the adoptive parents have? How are these orders going to be enforced? What if the adoptive parents want to move? What about the natural children of the adoptive family? It’s one thing for me to be in an enforced relationship with someone who has had their parental rights terminated—but my kids too?

    (4) Venue issues. What if the parents have moved out of state—what jurisdiction does a NY court have? Answer: None. But you know that’s not how it would roll.

    (5) Lurking EPC issue–presumably a natural parent wouldn’t have to deal with a person whose parental rights have been termination—so why should adoptive?