The third stipulation was more substantively much more significant. This was a stipulation as to certain underlying facts. The parties stipulated to the fact that: both April and Jayne were licensed foster parents; they had been in a relationship for 8 years; that the home is stable and loving; that each of them had adoption at least one child; that it is a problem that they are not both legal parents of all the children, especially when a child had an urgent medical need; that the lack of legal status keeps the children from accessing the health insurance of the non-legal parent; that if the non-legal parent dies, the other would have no legal right to visitation or custody; that the children do not have inheritance or Social Security rights from either non-legal parent; and that this causes stress and anxiety in the family and causes risk and instability to the children. These are all of the things that the State agrees are true.
The next witness was Professor Vivek Sankoran of the University of Michigan Child Advocacy Law Clinic. Prof. Sankoran has an impressive and long list of experience, appointments and publications. He was appointed twice by Gov. Snyder (a defendant in this case) to the Michigan Child Abuse and Prevention Board, is appointed to represent clients by the Michigan Supreme Court, trains other attorneys to be a certified child welfare specialist, is a consultant for the National Center for State Court, and was awared the Parent Attorney of the Year by the Michigan Foster Care Review Board in 2011 (the award was presented by Maura Corrigan, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice and current director of the Department of Human Services for Michigan). The AG objected to qualifying him as an expert in the field of foster and adoption processes in Michigan, the economics of the foster system, and the Michigan guardianship code for minors. The judge overruled that objection, but questioned the relevancy of the testimony to the issues of the trial. He allowed the testimony and said he would sort out later what is relevant and what is not.
Prof Sankoran testified, interspersed with several objection by the AG and encouragement from the Judge to move along the testimony, and was able to impress on the Judge that estate planning documents are not sufficient to protect the relationship between the child and the non-legal parent, and that the children are being left in Michigan’s foster care system while adoptive parents go to other states to adopt in order to have equal parental rights. Ultimately concluded that the laws as they are currently written are hurting children, including the children who age out of foster care without ever finding a permanent home, and that allowing both parents to adopt would better protect the children of the couple and would increase adoptions from foster care in Michigan and would save the state a significant amount of money each year.
Court adjourned at 12:30 and will resume Thursday at 9am with the testimony of expert for the plaintiffs, Gary Gates. Tomorrow is expected to be another short day.