Journal Issue: Adoption Volume 3 Number 1 Spring 1993
Restructuring Adoption Law
Joan Hollinger, as quoted in Sokoloff's article, has stated that American adoption is "purely a creature of the statutes which have been enacted in this country since the mid-nineteenth century." She begins her article on adoption law in this issue by stating that "the lack of coherence and uniformity in our adoption laws and practices exposes to needless risk all parties to an adoption" and that "efforts to improve adoption laws have persistently been undermined by the difficulty of achieving a consensus about how the legal system can balance the psychological and social needs of birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees."
Hollinger believes that consensus may possibly be achieved if we focus on six basic elements of adoptive relationships and begin to "reconstruct" them in light of current knowledge. In her analysis, she highlights and discusses many of the major issues which underlie the problems addressed in the other articles in this volume.
Because adoption is, for the most part, regulated by state laws, hope for consensus may depend upon the development of a uniform adoption law which would then be enacted by most, if not all, states. Fortunately, such an attempt is being made through the efforts of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), the composition of which is described in endnote no. 14 of the Hollinger article.
A Uniform Adoption Act, which was developed by the Conference in 1953, was enacted by only eight states, and revisions in 1969 and 1971 met the same fate. In May 1989 the Conference convened a study committee to take a new look at the problem and in August of that year appointed a Drafting Committee to "take on the formidable task of drafting an entirely new and presumably Uniform Act." Joan Hollinger has served as the Reporter on the Drafting Committee since its inception.
The Drafting Committee has met eight times since its appointment, and a draft of the Act is now under review, with most of the articles having achieved consensus among the committee members. However, on some issues the committee members remain sharply divided (for example, the question of how to ensure that identifying information is not released except by mutual consent or by court order for good cause). A final reading of the proposed Act is now scheduled for 1993-1994 instead of 1992 as originally planned. It should be emphasized that, even if the Uniform Adoption Act is adopted by the Conference, it must then be enacted by the states, a process which promises to require much time and pose many hurdles.
We believe that a uniform adoption act is urgently needed. The efforts of the Conference and its Drafting Committee should be encouraged, and when an act is approved by the Conference, it should be considered seriously by the states and in a timely manner.