Second Parent Adoption: The difference between NY and VA

[caption id="attachment_5775" align="alignright" width="300"]2014-04-20FamilyPortrait Amy, Laura, and their two girls[/caption] By Amy Cohen The day before we moved from New York to Virginia this past August, my partner and I found out that we were expecting a second child.  As excited as we were--both about the move to Charlottesville and the impending arrival of a new baby--we were dismayed to find ourselves arriving in a legal landscape where our second child would not have the same legal protections as her older sister. And I, as the non-birth parent, was especially nervous about what this would mean for me.  We completed a second-parent adoption for our first child when we were residents of New York, and the security of that legal recognition of my relationship to our child is extremely important to both of us.   Suddenly we were faced with a situation in which I might be denied the right to pick our younger daughter from school, make decisions for her in the hospital if she got sick, or take care of her if something happened to my partner.  Also, if something happened to me, our daughter would be denied my social security benefits and other protections she should be entitled to as my child. We regret that Virginia will not allow us to create the same security for our second child. As a result, we took advantage of Washington, DC's new adoption statute that allows for second-parent adoptions to be completed in the district for any baby born there. That means that we turned our lives upside down, uprooted our family from Virginia and moved to DC for a month in order to ensure that the baby was born within safe borders. We spent countless hours traveling back and forth to DC for doctors' appointments; we had to consult with lawyers in two jurisdictions; we spent money we wanted to save for the baby on additional transportation, legal, and housing costs. [caption id="attachment_5776" align="alignleft" width="225"]Sisters Sisters[/caption] Against this backdrop, our younger daughter was born in April and we are now adjusting to life with two children.  Our two-year-old loves popsicles, singing songs, working with play doh, and cooking together – her favorite is waffles.  Our two-month-old is learning to smile and laugh and loves to be sung to.  There is never enough time for sleep and there is always a pile of dirty laundry, but we are loving every minute of it.  Anyone who has been around small children is familiar with the juggling act required to keep up with them.  Our day-to-day lives are defined by all of the joys and all of the challenges that come with parenting two small children. We have a lot of love in our family and are grateful every day for each of our daughters.  In New York, we were able to achieve legal recognition of our family that reflects our love and commitment to each other.  We simply could not imagine not having the same legal protections for our younger child as we have for her sister.  It is absurd that two children born to the same family could end up with such radically different legal protections.  We so wish that Virginia were a place that would provide that security for our younger child and fully recognize our whole family. It is time for a change in our state's adoption laws. Virginia families of all shapes, sizes and configurations deserve to be legally protected so that children born here are afforded legal support that reflects the love their families have for them.  Even if Virginia gains marriage equality, that is not enough.  We need legal status for our families that is portable across state lines, and second parent adoption is an absolutely critical component of achieving full protection and equality for our families.   This blog is part of Equality Virginia’s summer 2014 blog series on second-parent adoption.  Learn more about how Equality Virginia is working toward second-parent adoption and get involved by signing up to receive our emails!  Another great way to stay in touch is by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.    If you are a same-sex couple raising a child in Virginia, please take our survey on second-parent adoption.