Summersgill testifies on Safe Families bill
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Summersgill testifies on Safe Families bill

Testimony by Bob Summersgill on the
“Adoption and Safe Families Amendment Act of 2009,” Bill 18-0012

To the Committee on Human Services
February 11, 2009

Chairman Wells:

Good morning. My name is Bob Summersgill, I am a resident of Ward 3 and the instigator of a number of bills that have expanded the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners in D.C. to the point where virtually all the rights and responsibilities of marriage now apply to domestic partners as well.

The “Adoption and Safe Families Amendment Act of 2009,” fails to continue that expansion and ignores that domestic partners are legal families in the District and are treated equal to married couples in almost every way.

Section 3 of this bill amends Section 16-308 of the D.C. Code that allows a judge the discretion to waive a home study when the adoptor is married to the child’s parent, that is a stepparent adoption.

Home study is an import step in adoptions when a child is being adopted into a new family. It is considerably less important in the situation in step-parent adoptions in § 16-308 (2). In these adoptions, the child is already living at home with a parent and a step-parent. Whether or not the adoption goes through, the child will continue to live in the same home with the same parents.

Giving judges the discretion to waive home study on a case-by-case basis is sufficient to deal with any exceptions that might arise.

A major shortcoming of Mayor Fenty’s bill is that it ignores both domestic partners, who are legally step-parents of their partners’ children, and a person “living in a committed personal relationship” with the parent as the D.C. Court of Appeals wrote in the MMD case, which allowed for second parent adoptions by same-sex couples.

I support the language proposed by Professor Nancy Polikoff for a new section 3 of the bill:

Sec. 3. Section 16-308 of the District of Columbia Official Code is amended to read as follows:

Ҥ 16-308. Investigations when prospective adoptee is adult or petitioner is the spouse or domestic partner of the parent or living in a committed personal relationship with the parent.

“(a) The court may dispense with the investigation, report, and interlocutory decree provided for by this chapter when:  

“(1) the prospective adoptee is an adult; or

“(2) the petitioner is living in a committed relationship with, or the spouse or domestic partner of, the natural parent of the prospective adoptee, and the natural parent consents to the adoption or joins in the petition for adoption.

“(b) In the circumstances specified in subsection (a) (2) of this section, the petition need not contain the information concerning race and religion specified in § 16-305(4) and (5).

“(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to waive the requirements of Title V of the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Act of 1977, effective June 27, 2000 (D.C. Law 13-136; D.C. Official Code § 4-1305.01 et. seq.), including the requirement of a fingerprint-based criminal records check.”.

Using this language will achieve the intended goal of the bill and acknowledge and respect the range of families that are providing their children with two parents.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments and the opportunity to testify on this bill.

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