Mass Senate Unanimously Passes Homeless ID and Relative Adoption Bills

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In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Senate President’s office.

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BOSTON – Today, January 13, the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed legislation to make state identification more accessible to people experiencing homelessness, as well as legislation to allow adoption by close relatives, which is currently prohibited under state law.

“These two bills will support some of the most vulnerable individuals in our Commonwealth,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The benefits are clear: providing access to identification for people who would otherwise struggle to receive it lifts up the lives of those in need. Separately, it is also time we recognized that in some cases, close relatives, even siblings, are the best choice for an adoptive guardian. Both bills will serve to strengthen people’s lives in a tangible way. I am proud to join my colleagues in the Senate on moving forward on these issues again this session.” 

“As the state begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, the Legislature must ensure that individuals experiencing homelessness have the same fundamental opportunities to live happily. One fundamental key to accessing basic services are state-issued IDs. Currently, people experiencing homelessness face significant financial and bureaucratic barriers when they attempt to obtain an ID. Now is the time to break down bureaucratic barriers that fuel the cycle of poverty, and to ensure equality for all the Commonwealth’s residents as we look towards a post-pandemic world,” said Senator Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester), sponsor of An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness.

“An identification card is something that many of us take for granted, but not having one can be a serious impediment to accessing essential services that so many people rely on,” said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This legislation takes a necessary step and ensures youth and adults experiencing homelessness can obtain a state identification card required to access opportunities that will help to move their lives forward. Thank you to Senate President Spilka, Senator Chandler, and the advocates for their support and hard work on this legislation, and my colleagues in the Senate for their commitment to supporting the most vulnerable among us.”

Currently, a person experiencing homelessness who wishes to obtain a Massachusetts identification (ID) card are faced with prohibitive fees and documentation requirements, including providing proof of a residence that they may not have. An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness seeks to remedy these burdens by waiving fees for individuals experiencing homelessness. Furthermore, the bill would allow such an ID applicant to meet the proof of residency requirement by presenting documentation that is from an entity providing services in the Commonwealth, such as a homeless shelter, or that shows that the applicant is receiving services provided by the Commonwealth.

Identification cards are necessary for applying to jobs, enrolling in school, interacting with law enforcement, accessing government buildings, opening financial accounts, and many more basic services that many take for granted. The inability to receive an ID prevents many individuals experiencing homelessness from accessing basic services and has been linked to a cycle of poverty.

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday also addressed the issue of legal adoption of a young person by close relatives of an adoptee. An Act relative to expanding access to adoption would allow an individual adopt a younger individual if they are that individual’s brother, sister, uncle or aunt. Currently, Massachusetts is one of only two states that prohibits adoption by close relatives. This legislation would allow for families to stay together ensuring a stable home environment which is a necessary component for development as well as physical and emotional health.

“In recent years, the Commonwealth has made great strides to expand the legal definition of ‘family,’” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem), sponsor of An Act relative to expanding access to adoption. “I am pleased to have sponsored S.2616 to better reflect and support residents across our Commonwealth who love and care for another. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of our vulnerable youth without parents, making familial relationships and bonds more important than ever. S.2616 would allow adult siblings to adopt their younger siblings, aunts and uncles with the permission of county probate courts, sparing our youth the additional trauma of family separation. Our children deserve to be cared for by the people who know and love them, and this bill helps make that a reality. Thank you Senate President Spilka and Chair Gomez for your leadership, and to the Children’s League of Massachusetts for your tireless advocacy.”

Both bills now move on to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.

editor

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