Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

Take the usual agony of an adoption dispute. Add in the disgraceful U.S. history of ripping Indian children from their Native American families. Mix in a dose of initial fatherly abandonment. And there you have it — a poisonous and painful legal cocktail that went before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, according to an article in KQED’s Public Media for Northern California on April 16, 2013.

The article which can be read here, tells about the adoption of a 2 year old girl whose biological father is a Native American, albeit, only 2% Native American, and his invoking the Indian Child Welfare Act upon learning that the biological mother had given the child up for an open adoption to a non Native American couple.

The biological father in this case had given up his parental rights but changed his mind after finding out that the mother was unable to raise the child and ripped the child from the adoptive parents custody at the age of 2.  He stated in his objection to the adoption that “I just figured the best interest would be … for [Christy] (the biological mother) to have the full custody of her, but for me to still be in the picture — be able to come visit and stuff.”

This is a sad story and one that I hope the Supreme Court recognizes the best interests of the child caught in the middle of this and does the right thing.  I will be watching for the ruling on this one.


In an article in the JD Journal today, it was reported that the SB 1476 Bill proposed in California by Senator Mark Leno, offers the chance of radical social engineering and reform. The modifications sought in Family law and proposed, wants the statute to establish that a child may legally have more than two parents – thus altering prevailing notions of a family. Leno told the Sacramento Bee “The bill brings California into the 21st century.”

This bill is to amend Sections 3040, 7601, and 7612 of, and to add Section 4052.5 to, the Family Code, relating to parentage.   In existing law, a man is conclusively presumed to be the father of a child if he was married to and cohabiting with the child’ s mother, except as specified. Existing law also provides that if a man signs a voluntary declaration of paternity, it has the force and effect of a judgment of paternity, subject to certain exceptions.

This bill would authorize a court to find that a child has 2 presumed parents notwithstanding the statutory presumption of parentage of the child by another man. The bill would authorize the court to make this finding if doing so would serve the best interest of the child based on the nature, duration, and quality of the presumed or claimed parents’ relationships with the child and the benefit or detriment to the child of continuing those relationships.

The Uniform Parentage Act defines the parent and child relationship as the legal relationship existing between a child and the child’s parents, including the mother and child relationship and the father and child relationship, and governs proceedings to establish that relationship.  This bill would provide that a child may have a parent and child relationship with more than 2 parents.

Existing law establishes an order of preference for allocating child custody and directs the court to choose a parenting plan that is in the child’s best interest.   This bill would, in the case of a child with more than 2 legal parents, require the court to allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child, including stability for the child.

Under existing law, the parents of a minor child are responsible for supporting the child.  Existing law establishes the statewide uniform guideline for calculating court-ordered child support. The guideline directs a court to consider the parents’ incomes, standard of living, and level of responsibility for the child.  This bill would, in the case of a child with more than 2 legal parents, direct authorize the court not to divide deviate from the statewide uniform guideline when dividing child support obligations among the parents using the statewide uniform guideline . The bill would instead direct the court to divide the child support obligations among the parents based on the income of each of the parents and the amount of time spent with the child by each parent, as specified. f a child with more than 2 legal parents, require the court to allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child, including stability for the child.

According to Leno,  “Most children have at most two parents, but some children have more than two people in their lives who have been a child’s parent in every way.” And according to him confining parenthood only to two persons neglects the emotions and contributions of other persons who, in a modern world, should also be held in equal status with parents.

Not everyone is happy about this new two-and-more parent family concept and hold that parenthood in a family as a social unit is not amenable to “the more the merrier” concept.

I can see good and bad in this bill.  In reading the proposed new Family Code Section 4052.5, the court may deviate from the statewide uniform guideline and divide the child support obligations based on each parents income and the time spent with the child.  One of the biggest problems I see in this new section, is going to be the allocating of child support and the enforcement of the same.  Then again, this could be a good thing in both of the non-custodial parent’s views, as they will not be paying as much in their child support obligation as they would be if there was not another non-custodial parent in the picture.

This is one bill I will continue to watch, it will be interesting to see how it turns out.  What do you think about this proposed bill?

On MomLogic from Stacey Doss regarding the California versus Ohio battle for Vanessa Doss Adoption Custody Lawsuit: “The California court has passed the buck and given the entire case to Ohio. The Ohio judge has decided that they will put Vanessa into foster care. The birth father will have night visits with Vanessa.  Vanessa will likely be placed with the birth father’s mother. The California court is vacating its order to keep Vanessa with me as of July 16, 2010. The court chose July 16th to give us time to file with the Court of Appeals in California.  I only have until July 16th to save my daughter.”

This is a case where a little girl who has been living with the only mother she knows since June 2008, may end up in the hands of foster care in Ohio!  How is this in the child’s best interests?  It seems that when the biological mother of Vanessa gave her up for adoption she lied to the adoption agency saying that she had a one night stand and did not know the biological father of the child, enabling her to give the baby up for adoption in Ohio.    Stacy Doss, the adoptive mother from California has been fighting a battle since the biological father came forward to claim his parental rights.

Laws about birth parents’ rights vary from state to state, but in Ohio, the burden is on the biological father to register with the state. A birth father has up to 10 months (beginning a month after his child’s birth) to sign the “Putative Father Registry,” which protects his parental rights in case the birth mother doesn’t identify (or intentionally misidentifies) the birth father.  If Mills signed this Registry, his parental rights are still intact. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee he’ll gain custody, but it means Stacey faces an emotionally difficult and financially draining road to justice. She has hired seven attorneys to fight this case, preparing for the worst. “I’m in big trouble,” she says. “It doesn’t look like California is going to stand up for this baby.”

But why would Mills want custody of Vanessa, considering he has already relinquished custody of his four other children? “That’s what’s so egregious about this case,” says Robin Sax, a momlogic legal analyst and former prosecutor. “While he may be asserting his parental rights, is he really acting in the child’s best interest? Or is he taking advantage of the situation where the judge’s hands are tied?”

I hope that the Ohio court sees that this child is in the best possible hands and allows Ms. Doss to finalize the adoption.  While I feel for Mr. Mills, the biological father, it is my understanding from reading about this case, that he does not have contact with any of his children, has relinquished custody of them and does not support them.  If he truly loves his daughter as he claims, he should do what is best for her and let Ms. Doss adopt her.

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Adoption does not only affect the families involved for a lifetime, but also the lawyers and judges who oversee the process. On Lawyer2Lawyer, co-hosts and attorneys, Bob Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams welcome Attorney Kathleen Hogan Morrison and Judge Bettina Borders, First Justice out of Bristol County, Massachusetts,  to discuss the joy of adoption, the process and the work of attorneys and judges who complete the circle of bringing families together.

The following clip from Lawyer2Lawyer is sponsored by Clio.

You can click below to download the podcast and hear how attorneys and judges feel about bringing families together through adoption.  As a Family Law paralegal, I can tell you from experience the flood of emotions you feel when a child is adopted, either by a step-parent, single parent or even through foster care.

download (size: 25 MB )

The above was previously presented at Legal Talk Network.

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So, today, December 1, 2009, is World Aids Day.  There is a lot of information out there but I was amazed at some of the things I learned today at  The most amazing information I learned was about HIV-positive women and men who want to be parents, whether it is biologically or by adopting.

If you want to be a parent, having HIV shouldn’t stop you.  There are a number of options for both HIV-positive women and men.

If you are an HIV-positive woman and you are pregnant—or want to become pregnant—the first thing you should do is talk with your health care provider.  There are medications you can take during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to help prevent your baby from being infected with HIV.

If you have not been taking antiretroviral medications (ARVs), you can start taking them safely at the beginning of your second trimester of pregnancy (12 weeks). If you are already on ARVs and become pregnant, you should talk to your healthcare provider immediately to make sure you are taking the safest ARVs during your pregnancy. In most cases, women continue on the medications they were taking before becoming pregnant—but you and your healthcare provider should discuss your options and make the decision that fits your situation best.

It is better to be treated with ARVs throughout your pregnancy, but you can still receive treatment even during labor and delivery. It’s important to tell medical staff at the hospital or clinic where you go to deliver that you are HIV-positive, so that they can give you medication to protect your baby.

If you are an HIV-positive man, sperm washing may be an option for you and your partner. Sperm are carried in seminal fluid , which contains some of the highest concentrations of HIV of any bodily fluid. Sperm washing involves taking a sample of semen , and washing the seminal fluid away in a laboratory, so that only uninfected sperm are left.

This process appears to significantly decrease the risk of HIV infection from HIV-positive males to HIV-negative females. The process is still controversial, however. In 1990, CDC issued a recommendation against sperm washing , citing a case in which a previously HIV-negative woman was found to be HIV-positive after she was inseminated with “washed” sperm from her HIV-positive husband. That recommendation has never been revised. More recent studies have found sperm washing to be a safe way for serodiscordant couples to conceive, as long as the washing is done by qualified medical personnel. For more information, see the September 2007 edition of AIDS: Official Journal of the International AIDS Society The process can be time-consuming and very expensive, and it is rarely covered by insurance. Consult with your healthcare provider for more information.


Artificial insemination with donor sperm and adoption services are additional options to help HIV-positive men and women to become parents.  Female partners of HIV-positive men have the option of artificial insemination using donor sperm from a sperm bank in order to get pregnant. By law, donor sperm samples are tested for HIV, so women who are artificially inseminated with donor sperm are protected against HIV infection.


Adoption is another option for people living with HIV/AIDS who want to have children. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits adoption agencies from discriminating against couples or individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Your HIV/AIDS service providers may be able to refer your to the proper agencies or organizations and help you begin the adoption process.


Mother-to-child transmission (also known as “perinatal” or “vertical transmission) is the most common way in which children become infected with HIV.  Infants who are HIV-positive may have been infected during the mother’s pregnancy, during vaginal childbirth or by drinking infected breast milk from their HIV-positive mother.

There are treatments that can protect newborns from HIV infection. When HIV-positive mothers receive antiretroviral drug therapy during pregnancy, labor, and delivery and have their babies by Cesarean section , the rate of perinatal HIV transmission falls to 2% for Newborns or less.  (Newborns with HIV-positive mothers are also given antiretroviral drugs at birth.)

There are also treatment options for women who do not discover they are HIV-positive until they are already in labor. If they receive medications during labor and delivery, the rate of HIV transmission can still be decreased to less than 10%. An HIV-positive mother who is not on antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, labor, or delivery has a 25% chance of passing the virus to her baby. For more information, see CDC’s Mother-to-Child (Perinatal) HIV Transmission and Prevention .

The CDC recommends that all pregnant women be tested for HIV—but not all healthcare facilities offer an automatic HIV test for pregnant women. If you are pregnant and have reason to believe you might have been exposed to HIV or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), it is critically important that you request an HIV test.

All children born to HIV-positive mothers have antibodies to HIV. These were made by their mother’s immune system and they enter the baby’s bloodstream before birth. The antibodies can be present for up to 18 months, but they reflect the mother’s infection status, not necessarily the baby’s. This means that standard tests for HIV infection are not useful in newborns or young infants.

Healthcare providers use special HIV tests that can actually detect very small quantities of the virus itself in the blood of children who are younger than 6 months of age.  (Most HIV tests look for antibodies to the virus, not the virus itself.)  With these tests, doctors can identify approximately 90% of HIV-infected infants by 2 months of age, and 95% by 3 months of age.

HIV experts recommend that all babies born to an HIV-positive mother be tested for HIV at intervals after birth. In 2008, 10 states required mandatory HIV testing of newborns if their mothers were HIV-positive or if the mother’s HIV status was unknown at the time of birth.  If you are HIV-positive and pregnant, it’s important you talk to your healthcare provider about treatment plans for you and your baby after you deliver.

If you are currently taking any medications, you should never stop without talking to your doctor first.  Stopping HIV treatment can cause serious complications for you and your baby.

For more information, visit the CDC’s HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy and Childbirth .

Let’s remember also to teach our children about HIV and AIDS.   I am a firm believer that you must talk to your children and even grandchildren about what is happening in the world today and this is one of the most important things you can teach them.  Below is a video that is made by teenagers.


The other interesting thing I learned is about blood transfusions and organ donation.  Approximately 25 years ago, I had a necessary surgery and things went terribly wrong.  I hemorrhaged and required several transfusions.  This was in the days when HIV and Aids testing were fairly new.  During my recovery period, I was notified by the blood bank that had collected the blood used during my surgery, that they had a donor who now tested positive for Aids.  I was informed that I would need a test and another one in several months.  Both of these tests came back negative, but I was informed that I would not be able to donate blood for the next 10 years to be on the safe side.  I can tell you that during these months waiting for the test results to come back, every once in awhile it would pop into my mind that there was a chance that I would test positive.  This concerned me because at the time, I had 2 young sons at home that I was responsible for.

In the early years of the HIV epidemic, blood transfusions and blood products were a prime source of HIV infection. In 1985, however, an HIV test became available, and screening of all blood donations became mandatory. Of those who contracted HIV through blood transfusions or products, nearly all did so before 1985.

The U.S. blood supply is now among the safest in the world: All blood donors are prescreened for HIV risk factors.  Three different HIV screening tests, including the p24 antigen test, are performed on all donated blood.  Blood and blood products that test positive for HIV are safely discarded and are not used for transfusions. Donors whose blood tests positive for HIV are notified by the collecting agency. It is important to know that you cannot get HIV from donating blood.  Blood collection procedures are highly regulated and safe.

If you know in advance that you are going to need blood for surgery, you can choose to donate and store your own blood with a blood banking service. This is called an autologous donation.

Using Blood Donation to Learn Your HIV Status

Some people think that donating blood is a more private way to learn their HIV status than asking their doctor for an HIV test or visiting a clinic. You should not donate blood to find out if you are HIV-positive . Why? Because the HIV tests used to screen donor blood are highly accurate—but they aren’t perfect. If you have been infected with HIV recently, even the most sensitive test may not show it, but you could still infect others who receive your blood. If you have engaged in high-risk sexual or drug taking behaviors, you should not donate blood. To learn your HIV status, go to and find an HIV testing center. By taking an HIV test, you can protect your own health, as well as the health of people who need blood!

For more information, see CDC’s How safe is the blood supply in the United States ?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the U.S. blood supply and safeguards over 3.5 million blood transfusion recipients each year. The FDA also certifies all assay test kits used to detect diseases in donated blood.

Each unit of donated blood is tested for:

  • Hepatitis B and C ( HBV and HCV )
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV 1 and HIV2)
  • Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (Types I and II)
  • Syphilis

For more information, see FDA’s Keeping Blood Transfusions Safe.


The risks of transplant-related HIV infection are low. All donor organs are screened for infectious diseases, including HIV.  But HIV tests do not always detect the virus in people with very recent infection.

In 2007, there were four documented cases of HIV spread through organ transplants.  These were the first cases in 20 years, and they were linked to a single donor, who tested negative for HIV inpre-transplant testing. Patients awaiting organ transplant need to be aware of the very small risk of HIV infection—and to balance that risk against their particular health needs and the limited availability of donor organs.

The CDC has issued criteria designed to identify “high-risk” organ donors and to exclude them from donating organs or tissue in most circumstances. Because of the very limited number of organs available for transplant, however, the CDC’s guidelines state that high-risk donors are acceptable if “the risk to the recipient of not performing the transplant is deemed to be greater than the risk of HIV transmission and disease.”

For more information, you can check out the additional resources below.

NIH –Fact Sheet: Transfusion Safety

FDA –Complete List of Donor Screening Assays for Infectious Agents and HIV Diagnostic Assays

CDC –Guidelines for Preventing Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Through Transplantation of Human Tissue and Organs.

Click here for a list of HIV/AIDS related Resources and Agencies and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – Report on Blood Safety and HIV/AIDS.