Adoption reform bill brings welcome new protection for children
The discovery that several of the 11 adoptive children of Michael and Sharen Gravelle were sleeping in cage-like boxes brought headlines worldwide last fall. The Gravelles called the structures "enclosures" designed to protect the special needs children from themselves and one another.
However, a judge ruled that the Gravelles had abused the children, and he also took away custody of the children from the Gravelles; the couple now is fighting to get the children back, as well as fighting criminal charges related to the children.
Among the questions that arose was how so many children with serious special needs could have been adopted by one couple.
Gov. Bob Taft convened a panel to look into the adoption system, and the group's recommendations are the basis of part of the legislation being enacted.
The state's adoption system was found to be suffering from severely inadequate communication among courts and agencies which placed the children with the Gravelles, all of the children coming to Huron County from other counties.
The reforms will require a special assessment of parents' ability to deal with the children when an adoption results in five or more children being in one home.
Before an adoption becomes final, extra home visits will be made by adoption workers. Increased training will be required of child welfare workers, and it will become a misdemeanor criminal offense to give false information on an adoption application. A previously proposed, federally required computer registry of state adoptions also will be created.
The idea is to provide needed protections for children being adopted into large families, not to discourage adoptions. One of the legislators who helped write the reform bill is state Rep. Jeff Wagner, R-Sycamore, who is a former foster parent.
The new requirements do not stigmatize adoptive parents, nor do they put any unbearable burden on the adoption process.
The current state of the adoption system is deplorable and a potential danger to children. The additional new protective measures will help ensure that children are well cared-for in adoptive homes.