Greene County lawmakers are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto the Preserving Family Bonds Act, which will allow parents whose parental rights have been terminated due to proven abuse, permanent neglect or abandonment of their children to obtain court-ordered visitation or other contact with those children even after they have been cleared for adoption.
We agree with the county Legislature and think this bill, despite its reassuring name, will tie up adoption-eligible children in the family court system indefinitely rather than getting the children placed immediately with another family member or in a more permanent foster home. It will also have a chilling effect on adoption and an adverse impact on willing foster families and the Department of Social Services.
Under current law, parental rights are terminated after a judge has heard evidence proving the parent abandoned, abused or permanently neglected the child. If the new law is enacted, it would, in effect, cancel out termination of parental rights. Instead it would allow the parent who was found, on indisputable evidence, to have abandoned, abused or permanently neglected the child to be absolved of all liability for child support, day care costs or medical expenses. But this same abusive or neglectful parent would still be able to petition for an order of visitation or other contact with the child.
Another consequence of the new law is that the courts will become a pervasive and constant presence in the life of the child. Good and reputable foster families may be discouraged from adoption, which can take two years or more, by the courts’ endless granting, rescinding or changing orders of visitation. And there is a financial cost to consider. Declining adoption rates could reduce badly needed state funding for foster care.
We think the Greene County Legislature is right to ask Cuomo to veto this bill and Greene lawmakers should convince their Columbia County colleagues to do the same. Far from preserving family bonds, this legislation will more likely tear them apart.