Over the last three months, Wisconsin legislators have been debating bills to reshape state laws that have the power to break up some families and create new ones. There have been two public hearings and a contentious Assembly floor session over the measures. But stories of parents like Tara van Wormer and their children have been virtually absent from the debate. The bills, including measures that cover adoption and foster care, grew out of an Assembly task force on adoption commissioned last spring. They were introduced as a package to make Wisconsin “more adoption friendly” in the words of the lawmakers supporting them. In short order, Gov. Tony Evers signed the least-controversial bill after it sailed through the state Assembly and the state Senate: Act 92, which expands who is eligible for financial assistance for adopting children with special needs. Several other bills passed the Assembly Jan. 15 after extensive debate, some on divided roll-call votes. They have yet to be scheduled in the Senate. The proposals share a common goal: In order to make it easier for children to be adopted, they would make it easier to terminate the parental rights of mothers and fathers suspected of abuse or neglect.

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