Thursday, April 8, 2010

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – State law that restricts who can become a foster parent or an adoptive parent is being challenged in a lawsuit filed in Pulaski County.

The law prohibits unmarried couples from adopting children or from becoming foster parents. It became law after Arkansas voters approved Initiated Act 1 in 2008.

The opponents of the law say they filed the suit because it prevents children from being placed in homes with loving parents, and that it limits the number of available foster homes at a time when there is a great need for more foster parents. They say it is an attempt to discriminate against homosexual couples who want to adopt.

Supporters of the law say that children should be placed in stable homes, and that placement with married couples is best for them. Supporters say that the law does not prevent a single person from adopting, and it does not affect adoptions that had already become official before the law took effect. Supporters of the law say that it does not prohibit a single person from being a foster parent or from adopting, because its restrictions only apply to unmarried couples who are living together in a sexual relationship.

In the 2008 general election the act received a favorable vote from 57 percent of Arkansas voters.

Human Development Centers

Another state policy under litigation could force changes at the six Arkansas human development centers, where people with severe and multiple disabilities have been placed.

The federal Justice Development has been investigating the facilities and a trial has been scheduled for September. In the suit, federal officials allege deficiencies at the Human Development Center in Conway. State officials defend the practices and policies in place at Conway and the other five Arkansas facilities.

Last month the Justice Department asked a federal judge to halt admissions of youths to the Conway center. The state responded immediately and vigorously in defense of the care provided at the Conway facility.

The judge ruled in favor of the state, at least in this initial go-round. He ruled that the Justice Department has known for years about policies at Conway, so there is no justification for an urgent halt to admissions. Any policy changes can wait another six months or so, until the September trial is finished.

Charter Schools

The possibility of another lawsuit, this one challenging the state's charter school policies, has arisen out of Little Rock.

The Little Rock School Board voted to authorize a federal court challenge of the state's approval of so many charter schools within Pulaski County. The suit had not been officially filed as of last week, but attorneys for the Little Rock School District and for the state were talking about a possible settlement before anything went to trial.

Little Rock educators say the state's approval of charter schools without conditions has hindered its ability to desegregate. The state is under federal court order to help desegregate Little Rock schools.

Of the 18 charter schools approved by the state, 11 are in Pulaski County and a 12th has been approved and is scheduled to open in August.

No comments: