LANSING — State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and state Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) called on their colleagues today to pass legislation to authorize joint adoptions by two parents who are not married to each other. Currently, only individuals or married couples can adopt, denying the children of unmarried couples the benefit of two legally responsible parents. Sen. Warren will introduce a bill to allow second-parent adoption when the Senate reconvenes. Rep. Irwin introduced House Bill 4133 in February, but the bill has yet to be granted a hearing in the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors.

“We know that children do best when they have two parents, but our laws are denying some children that legal, financial and emotional security,” Rep. Irwin said. “When a child’s parents are not married for whatever reason, we should not penalize the child. Second-parent adoption provides an opportunity for other relatives to take responsibility for children, so that, for example, the sister of a widowed mother could adopt the children and parent them with their mother.”

“While the ruling on marriage equality has finally allowed some couples to officially adopt, we still have many diverse families here in the state of Michigan who face unnecessary hurdles when trying to bring a child into their home,” Sen. Warren said. “It is high time we recognize these families and work to guarantee legal and financial security for all of our children. Second parent adoption will do just that, while also expanding the pool of potential foster and adoptive parents for thousands of Michigan children in need of a permanent home. We cannot keep these kids waiting any longer — we must act now.”

Second-parent adoption is supported by all major organizations dealing with adoption and child welfare, including the American Pediatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Bar Association. This support is based on decades of research showing that children do best when they have two parents to care for them. About 780,000 children in Michigan live in unmarried households, and almost 40 percent of children adopted out of Michigan foster care are adopted by unmarried parents.

“It has been hard in the past to get the Legislature to consider second-parent adoption, because it was associated with same-sex couples who could not marry or adopt together,” Rep. Irwin continued. “Now that the issue of same-sex marriage has been resolved, I hope that my colleagues will look at this bill anew and recognize that second-parent adoption is in the best interests of Michigan kids. On Michigan Adoption Day, we should take every opportunity to encourage people to take responsibility for children, and passing HB 4133 will expand access to adoption.”

The Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services established Michigan Adoption Day in 2003 as the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It is celebrated at events at courthouses across the state, and many families choose to finalize their adoptions on this occasion. Last year, more than 2,160 children were adopted in Michigan, and about 2,500 children in the foster care system are currently available for adoption.