Letter: Only thing clever about Preserving Family Bonds Act is the bill name – Times Union

The Preserving Family Bonds Act does not protect children as claimed in Amy Mulzer’s commentary “Support children by signing Preserving Family Bonds Act,” Dec. 13. Indeed, this cleverly named bill does the opposite, delaying permanency and leaving kids adopted from foster care open to ongoing trauma.

The act’s supporters project a false image of foster care in New York state, arguing that the termination of parental rights happens rapidly and without many checks and balances on the process when the reality is terminations happen after years when all other interventions have failed. Adoptive families are trained to preserve relationships with birth families whenever possible, usually without court intervention.

This bill, however, allows judges to mandate visitation with parents whose rights have been terminated, ensuring ongoing engagement with birth parents who have had the most difficulty handling parenting with maturity, reliability and self-awareness.

Nothing currently prevents visitation with birth family members when it is safe and appropriate to do so. Placing this decision with the courts rather than families undermines adoptive parents’ legal status as parents, putting them at the mercy of the court visitation order in unprecedented ways — unable to relocate or make other family decisions without ongoing court involvement.

We need legislative action to strengthen families and create better outcomes for family reunification when Child Protective Services has no alternative but to remove children from their birth families. We can preserve family bonds through funding preventative services, anti-racism and anti-poverty initiatives, mental health and addiction services, and social worker training rather than demonizing foster care and adoption from foster care.

Katherine Clark Walter, Ph.D.


Associate Professor, Department of History, SUNY Brockport