Iowa legislators sound off on HF 743

 

June 17, 2021



In one of the most underrated bills of the legislative session, the Iowa Legislature found a way to make adoptions more affordable, with an ultimate goal of making them free.

That’s right. Free adoptions.

A few years ago, the state started the adoption tax credit program. Additionally, the State of Iowa began a program to defray some adoption expenses through the Department of Human Services.

But we knew we could do better.

The State of Iowa has contracts with lawyers throughout the state to provide legal services for criminal defendants. This representation is required under the United States Constitution. The State Public Defender’s Office is responsible for carrying out that infamous piece of the Miranda warnings that dictates, “If You Cannot Afford an Attorney, One Will Be Appointed to You.”

What the State Public Defender’s Office can provide us in terms of adoptions is infrastructure. They already have those contracts and contacts throughout the state. They have the software to track billable hours and expenses, rules for the program, and knowledgeable staff to execute justice throughout the state.

We had an idea: Let’s use that same infrastructure for different type of legal representation.

We are entering uncharted waters here. This is not something the state has done before in this capacity. We are asking lawyers to do a different kind of law than they are accustomed – albeit one in which many lawyers covet: Adoptions.

When we pitched this idea to the State Public Defender’s Office, they were incredibly open to the idea and have been extraordinarily helpful in finding a way to make this work.

But we had to start somewhere, because we need to see if this concept works. With such a significant change, we need to dip our toes in the water. House File 743 allows a public defender to represent an adoption proceeding for an indigent party for a child who was subject to a termination of parental rights proceeding with the Public Defender’s office.

So, we are starting with a very narrow set of circumstances to ensure the program works efficiently and effectively. If it does, we can continue to expand it. We recognize the irony, but this is one government program that we hope grows and grows.

Adoption is time-consuming, emotionally draining and expensive. And to some extent, it should be. We need adopting families to be prepared for a child; physically, emotionally and financially. But should those financial barriers be prohibitive to a good family adopting a child in need? No. And, being financially stable to provide for a family and able to pay for the costs of adoptions are two entirely different standards.

We are so excited for the future of this program. The State of Iowa can and should do better when it comes to making adoption a realistic opportunity for children and families. Let’s finalize the legal formalities for these families with innovative government.

And let’s not stop there. Let’s keep fighting for foster care, for adoptions, for these kids and families. Because every kid deserves a full belly, a warm bed, and a loving family.

Rep. Megan Jones,

R-Sioux Rapids;

Rep. Brian Lohse,

R-Bondurant;

Rep. Joe Mitchell,

R-Mount Pleasant;

Rep. Garrett Gobble,

R-Ankeny;

Rep. Jon Jacobsen,

R-Council Bluffs

 
 

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