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Broken Adoptions Project

Louise is fighting for children who lack access to justice and necessary supports.

At the start of 2020, Louise Feld was excited about a new legislative session and ready to push forward an amendment of to the Social Services Law, related to the adoption subsidy law.   

 Louise is The Children Law Center’s (CLC) writing and policy attorney.  In addition to writing briefs and motions, and arguing cases at the Appellate Division, Louise also pushes for legislative and policy changes that will positively impact countless children beyond those represented by CLC.

The pandemic has challenged CLC to change some of how we work, especially with respect to advocating for legislative change.  “This work that CLC does is very intense. It’s emotional and doing it during a global pandemic isn’t easy,” Louise reflects. “I worry about the road ahead. How will the courts give access to people who need it?”

Broken Adoptions 

Louise is fighting for children who lack access to justice and necessary supports. Each year a number of New York’s children experience “broken adoptions,” when they are displaced from their adoptive homes. That displacement can result from the illness or death of an adoptive parent, or abuse or neglect. Either way there is no comprehensive data kept. Some children return to foster care, others return to court the subject of a neglect, abuse, or custody case, and other children end up homeless or in contact with the criminal justice system.  Needless to say, a broken adoption can wreak emotional and mental havoc on a young person. 

To make matters worse, many times the adoptive parent that is no longer caring for the child continues to collect an adoption subsidy. This is a payment that most adoptive parents receive when they adopt a child from the New York State foster care system. Under the current law, the subsidy can be stopped only if the adoptive parent dies.  In other instances, such as when a child returns to foster care, moves to live with a new guardian, or lives independently, the state does not transfer the adoption subsidy to a new caretaker or the young person  herself.  As a result, the adoptive parent can continue to collect payments until the child turns 21, without continuing to care for or support the child. 

Louise took the findings of CLC’s Broken Adoptions Project and worked with a coalition of child advocacy organizations, child welfare stakeholders, and CLC colleagues to propose a meaningful change to amend the Social Services Law and support these vulnerable childrenso that the subsidy always benefits the child. Unfortunately, that amendment is currently in a holding pattern, as a result of COVID-19. But that doesn’t deter Louise for she’s been known to push boulders up hills.  

Child advocates are uniquely positioned to see first-hand the impact on children of decisions made by courts and elected officials on behalf of children and the impact of those decisions first-hand, and as well as the consequences of child welfare policies and family law practices, unintended or otherwise. Louise acknowledges that the work of an attorney that represents children is often misunderstood. But the CLC  team will continue to do their part to give children a strong and effective voice in legal proceedings that have critical impacts on their lives.  

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