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State adoptions subject of controversial legislative hearing

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The Children and Juvenile Law Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, will meet on Friday to discuss new adoption procedure rules, which could have a huge impact on who can perform adoption services.

"It boils down to regulated versus unregulated adoptions," said Dierdre L. McCool, executive director of Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption Services.

What McCool is referring to is that agencies like the one she heads operate under strict rules governed by the state. But, adoptions also are carried out by private attorneys who can operate outside of the state purview.

"We are required to offer birth mothers counseling and post-adoption services," McCool said, "whereas any attorney in the state of Oklahoma "¦ they can be an ambulance chaser and they can do adoptions. There is no special kind of education. There's nothing. When you have that kind of paradigm in place, it puts children at risk."

CONSTITUTIONAL?
But, John Williams, executive director of the Oklahoma Bar Association, has trouble with the idea of regulating attorneys.

"I would think the Legislature putting a requirement on someone in the practice of law could face some serious constitutional challenges," he said.

Williams said the OBA has not seen any widespread abuse of adoption cases, and that a mechanism is in place to deal with lawyers who violate adoption laws.

"If there is some kind of fraud going on, people can file a complaint with the office of general counsel," he said. "Scott Cooper

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