Bill would change parental rights for adoptions

Sen. Harris Dodd won’t run for re-election

Birth parents would be able to give up their parental rights more easily under a bill being circulated at the Capitol.

Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, is sponsoring a bill that would allow birth parents to sign away their rights through a legal affidavit 72 hours after a baby is born.

Right now, birth parents are required to appear in court and testify under oath at a hearing to terminate their parental rights. That hearing can take place 30 or more days after the birth of the child.

A Monona couple said an earlier termination of parental rights may have saved them months of pain.

Nikki and Kristen Larmee-Slechta had a baby boy, who they called Isaac, placed with them in August. They were waiting for the court hearing when four days before it, the mother called to say she was having second thoughts. The court appearance was delayed and the mother eventually said she had changed her mind.

“It’s always the biggest fear as a person adopting that you’re loving this child and there is a chance it will fall through,” Nikki Larmee-Slechta said. “It was pretty devastating and we thought it was a done deal.”

Cindy Jensen, with Adoption Avenues Inc. in Janesville, said not only is the time period hard for all involved, but a court appearance can also be traumatic for a birth parent.

“She has to give testimony under oath often from the witness stand and she has to talk about a lot of private things,” Jensen said. “At times it almost sounds as if they’re trying to talk her out of adoption because they want to make sure she understands all her rights and alternatives.”

The couple had to give the baby back to the mother, and they said they’re not sure whether they can or will adopt again after the experience.

“I don’t want any other adoptive parents to go through this again,” Nikki Larmee-Slechta said. “I know if we decide again or try to adopt we’ll probably go through a state with a 72-hour time frame because I can’t go another month not knowing if my child is my child for sure.”

Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois all have similar laws, and Jensen said often parents from Wisconsin choose to adopt out of state because of their laws.

Jacque is currently circulating the bill for co-sponsorship in the Legislature.