A discussion of the bill being considered by the State Legislature that would give married couples priority in adoptions. Barbara Trella of Aid To Adoption Of Special Kids and Peter Gentala of the Center For Arizona Policy are guests.
Michael Grant: Tonight on Horizon a bill being considered by the state legislature would give priority rights to married couples for adoptions. Phoenix has an ample supply of water, but conservation is still needed. Plus millions of Armenians were murdered at the hands of the Turks in World War I. We speak with a historian who documents the Armenian genocide.
Announcer: Horizon is made possible by contributions of the friends of 8. Members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
Michael Grant: Good evening. Thanks for joining us on Horizon. I'm Michael Grant. House bill 2696 voted down today from the senate. That bill would give married couples priority over single persons in the adoption placement of foster children. The 15-13 vote in the senate means a motion for reconsideration must be made tomorrow or the bill will be dead. Before we talk about the issue here is a comment from a single adopting mother who is also an attorney who works in the foster care system. Susan Frank tells us how the bill would effect her.
Susan Frank: A lot of mothers do choose the married couples, anyway. But under this bill it doesn't matter how wonderful you are, you could be a child psychologist or a pediatrician and the married couple would always have priority, no matter what their qualifications are. So not only being chosen in the future for a sibling for my child, but as it is today, when I appear before the adoption judge or any single person does under this law, there's a very good chance that I could hear the judge say, you know, because of this law that gives priority to married couples, I can't find that it's in the best interests of this child to be with a single parent. And so I'm now going to take him away from you and place him with a married couple. That is a possibility. Because that's what the law is saying. It's giving us strong public policy that single people need not apply, that married couples are best. And for the children's sake we have hundreds of children right now in shelters and temporary placements. And group homes that they just want a home. They just want somebody to love them. And you know, I think we should be opening our arms to everyone that's willing and able to provide a loving, safe and stable home for these children. But instead the legislature is turning them away. And the effect will be that they're not going to want to go through the process because the adoption process alone is a very lengthy and difficult and intensive process. So they'll either not go through the process or they'll go to foreign adoption.
Michael Grant: Joining us now to talk about the bill is the executive director of aid to adoption of special kids, Ron Adelson and the general counsel for the center for Arizona policy, Peter Gentala. Peter, I guess you don't know if there will be a motion to reconsider that for a vote in the senate tomorrow.
Peter Gentala: Anything's possible. So the political theater could still be at issue here. Technically the bill is not dead yet so there could be a motion tomorrow.
Michael Grant: Yeah. No. It is always premature to call a bill dead in the legislature until the ending gavel comes down. Were you surprised by the result today?
Peter Gentala: A little bit surprised. But this bill has been controversial. There was a lot of testimony in the senate side both for and against the bill. But this bill is great public policy. The reason we're so strongly in support of it is because we think that adoption is the perfect chance for the state of Arizona to give kids a second chance at a mom and a dad. We're talking about kids who through circumstances outside of their control have the mother figure, the father figure or perhaps both taken away from them. So this bill basically says, let's give those kids a second chance. Let's give them an opportunity through the adoption process of having the mother figure and the father figure back in their lives.
Michael Grant: Ron, I obviously want to give you an opportunity to respond to. That but first, what universe of children are we talking about here?
Ron Adelson: We're talking about the 10,000 children in Arizona who are currently part of the foster care system.
Michael Grant: So these are children that are in the custody and care of the department of economic security, in this case in foster placement.
Ron Adelson: Correct. Correct.
Michael Grant: Now, well, first let me get your reaction to the senate vote. I assume that you were pleased when it went down.
Ron Adelson: I'm pleased today and will hopefully be happier tomorrow when the bill finally gets put to rest.
Michael Grant: This only gives a preference to a married couple. Vis a vis a single person.
Ron Adelson: The word preference is used but really what it does is it sets artificial priorities. Right now you have humans, meaning the case managers who work for the state, their supervisors and the judges decide what is in the best interest of the child. And for each child there's a lot of things that could enter into it. Some children there might be a language issue. Some children play be better with animals, some children may not be. Marriage is one factor in that. If it's in the best interests for the child that will be the decision of the state. What this bill does is falsely rye other advertise one higher than all the others saying this is the overriding thing and now the burden is on others to prove why marriage should not be the overriding thing.
Michael Grant: Would in fact it make it an overriding consideration? I mean, it can be written that way. Other times preference statutes just say all other things being equal, do it this way.
Ron Adelson: That's kind of what we have right now. What we have right now is we as a agency do a detailed analysis of the family. We then present our findings to the state and then the state, if we're lucky enough -- unfortunately in this still we're not lucky often enough. If there's multiple families that step forward, the state then decides which family is the most appropriate family for that child.
Michael Grant: Peter, why is it necessary to issue an instruction in this regard? Obviously there's a lot of examination of applicants to become adoptive parents, be they married or single. There's the vetting process that goes through. You've got a judge sitting there evaluating various factors. Why do you have to dictate a particular criteria?
Peter Gentala: Well, this bill is pretty flexible. I don't think anything's being dictated. What's happening here is the legislature, if this bill passes, would be basically taking notice of the social science out there -- and there's plenty of it -- that suggests that all things being equal the optimal environment for a child to be raised in is in a home with a married mother and father. It doesn't mean that it's going to be perfect for every child. And certainly we recognize that there are some cases where a child is going to be better off in a placement with a single person. And that's why there are very large exceptions in this bill that basically make it so that if there is an argument that it is in the child's interest that there's a placement with a single person then that's going to happen. One example is a relative. If there's a single person whose a relative of the child and they're available and ready to take the child, then placement will go to the single person. There's no question that the placement really overrides the marriage preference. Another opportunity would be someone who's had a child in foster care. If a single person has been taking care of a child in the foster care situation over a period of time and they've developed a meaningful and healthy relationship with them then the marriage preference doesn't apply. All this bill says is that all things being equal we should try to give every child with d.e.s. right now waiting for an adoptive home to have a mom and a dad. We should try to give them that opportunity to get both those role models in their lives.
Michael Grant: Well, and if you've got those exceptions on the face of the bill, why don't they assuage some of the concerns about the policy?
Ron Adelson: A couple of reasons. Fist of all, I would disagree. Social science does not say that two parent families are more successful in the field of adoption than they are as one person families. We as an agency have many families. Some of them are two parent families, some are single person families. And what it takes is a loving family who will open up their home to the child. It does not necessarily take a two parent family versus an one parent family. The problem is that in a different time and a different place, if the research supported this, maybe this would be the appropriate bill. But in a state with 10,000 children where there's a shortage of families stepping forward, where every year hundreds of children age out of the system without finding a home, we really shouldn't be making legislation which will have a chilling effect on our recruiting. And what I mean by that is, many childless parents step forward and say, I would be interested in foster care and adoption. And if you talk to those parents today, they will tell you can say what you want about this not setting a priority, but that bill will stop them -- they will not step forward. And if we actually talk to the families that's what telling us.
Michael Grant: Let me cycle back to what you first said and make sure I understand. Because there is a fair amount of data, I think, that as a society children in two parent households perform better, emerge better, those kinds of things than in general children in single parent households.
Ron Adelson: Correct.
Michael Grant: What your saying is that similar data does not necessarily exist for adoptive environments. You can't extrapolate from that general experience to the specific?
Ron Adelson: What I'm saying is that in the studies that are based on adoption, Grace and Rosenthal looked at 7 studies out there. There is no difference in the disruption rate between families that have a single parent and families that have two parents in the field of adoption. The research doesn't exist.
Michael Grant: Peter, what about the chill factor? We also heard that in the comments from Susan who was on tape. She said, you know, why would a single person basically put themselves through this process if they think the deck is stacked against them?
Peter Gentala: Yeah. I don't think there will be a chilling effect. I think that it will be clear that they're still eligible to adopt. Single persons in Arizona are eligible to adopt just like married couples. But I think it's clear to most people the reason why we look to households with married mothers and fathers first. And if a qualified single person is ready to step up and be the parent for a child, this bill is not going to step in the way of that. They can still go forward with that process. All this is saying is that if you have a married couple along with a single person, the married couple will receive the preference if all things are equal. But if there's some argument here -- for instance, if the child would stay in foster care longer because of the preference, the preference doesn't apply. So this preference is really something that's quite flexible and it's really just there to give parents or children the chance to have the influence of both mom and dad. And there's clear advantages to that.
Michael Grant: Obviously, though, you're not reading it as very flexible at all.
Ron Adelson: And more importantly it doesn't really matter what I think, what peter thinks. What really matters is the family stepping forward for adoption and foster care. And when you listen to Susan and when we go out and talk to the families the once we're recruiting on a daily basis, they're saying they're going to start looking international and overseas and private placement for adoption. They are not going to turn to the children in our state system. And instead of hundreds of children aging out of the system if this bill passes we could be looking at a much higher number.
Michael Grant: Peter, depending on if this fails tomorrow, will the senate perhaps press this in the next legislative session?
Peter Gentala: Absolutely. The hallmark of adoption law and why we have adoption laws in the first place is the best interests of children. It's in the best interests of children if possible to give them a mom and dad in the home. That's what we're all about. So we'll definitely be doing. I would like to say that the other state that has this, Utah, hasn't seen any chilling effects like the one that Ron has referenced.
Michael Grant: Peter Gentala, thank you very much for joining us. Ron Adelson, thank you as well.
Michael Grant: Despite the drought for the last 10-years Phoenix reservoir levels have been all right. But there is a critical need for conservation still. Jose Cardenas spoke with Phoenix councilman Claude Mattox about what we can do to conserve water.
Jose Cardenas: Councilman Mattox, thank you for joining us on our show tonight. We had 143-days of no rain. We set a record. We had one good rain, at least recently. But still the sense is that we're not doing too well on water. What's the real picture?
Claude Mattox: Actually we have done very well on water. We don't necessarily get our drinking water from the rain that we get here locally. Our drinking water actually comes from rain in the snow pack up in the Salt River watershed, the Verde watershed and --
Jose Cardenas: But hasn't this impacted us? The snow bowl was hardly open this season?
Claude Mattox: That's true. But last year when we had an enormous amount of snow and rain, our reservoirs have gone up to over 80% in the salt river water reservoir and -- that actually gives us sufficient water to keep us going for several years into the future without having to worry about future restrictions, or I should say restrictions. So at this point, Phoenix and the metropolitan area is in good shape.
Jose Cardenas: So we're actually doing better than we were a year ago.
Claude Mattox: Absolutely.
Jose Cardenas: Now, I understand we're also doing better than other parts of the southwest. Why is that?
Claude Mattox: We've been working on this for 25 years. The ground water management act was adopted back in 1980 that basically told specific areas in Arizona and the phoenix metropolitan area, Tucson, Pinnell county, central Arizona. We were told, you're going to have to get off of ground water and find other sources of water. So for 25 years we've been focused on how do we improve our water supply and how do we continue to provide the amount of water that's needed for growth. Because we know it's going to continue. And so we have become very creative. We've changed our ordinances to allow for reuse of water, to allow for recharging water back into the ground water aquifer. There's a lot of different things that we've done that has helped us. But the biggest thing that I think that's been most successful for us over the last 25 years has been our conservation program. Since 1980 we have focused on teaching people how to use water more conservatively just through your daily habits. And this becomes part of your normal behavior.
Jose Cardenas: Which will work for the people we've got here. But we're anticipating tremendous growth over the next 20, 25 years. How do we deal with that? What's the full scope of the plan?
Claude Mattox: The full scope of the plan is that we are going to continue to move forward. We've actually enhanced our conservation program. It is an ongoing education program. We are recharging water that will provide us with more water for the future. We are looking for other buckets of water. That's something we're really going to have to focus on. Our biggest bucket right now is the Colorado River and the Salt River but we're going to have to focus on other ways to get water. One of the things we're looking at is desalination and take the ground water and use it for the future. The biggest thing is teaching people how to use water properly. We have a saying that Arizona has plenty of water. We just don't have a drop to waste. And that's true.
Jose Cardenas: There's been a lot of talk about developments for example in Mohave county, basically a whole new city where Kingman is. How would that impact the valley if at all?
Claude Mattox: Well, the biggest issue and concern that we have is the fact that they don't have enough water to deal with that type of development. How it would potentially impact it? If they want to tap into the Colorado River which is pretty well allocated and in Arizona, Phoenix's portion of the central Arizona project portion of water in Tucson, all of us are dependent on Colorado river water from the central Arizona project. If they were to tap into the Colorado River, we don't know that they have any water on the Colorado River to be able to take advantage of. They don't have the ground water. One of the things that the state legislature -- and we've been asking them to do this -- is they need to start putting restrictions on development as they did in the ground water management act of 1980 for central Arizona. That gives the board of supervisors in that area the ability to say no to development where there isn't sufficient water to be able to handle that development and that has not been done yet.
Jose Cardenas: Are we thinking about putting the urban areas against the rural areas of the state?
Claude Mattox: I don't look at it that way. We just need to give the rural areas the tools they need to grow responsible.
Jose Cardenas: Phoenix residents should not be looking at water restrictions?
Claude Mattox: Not in the close years to come. One of the things they should look at is landscaping. Changing landscaping, looking at desert scaping, taking grass out, putting desert plants in that don't use a lot of water. Using the timers on your watering system. One of the things that I see and I'm sure you've seen this that frustrates me, it's rained and you see someone's water sprinkler going while it's raining. It's very simple to turn it off while the ground is still wet. Because the good heavy rain like we had recently, you don't need to water for several days. Those types of things are very easy to do. The other thing is that we continue to encourage people, look for leaks in fossets and make sure your toilet isn't running. Just simple things save a lot of water.
Jose Cardenas: Councilman Claude Mattox of Phoenix, thank you for joining us on the show today.
Claude Mattox: Thank you, Jose.
Michael Grant: In one week the annual Armenian remembrance day will be marked in this country. Tonight you'll be able to see a hour long documentary on the Armenian genocide here on eight. That documentary covers the controversial subjects of the deaths of anywhere from several hundred thousand to possibly 1.5 million Armenian civilians living in Turkey during the ottoman empire as world war 1 engulfed Europe. Turkey to this day denies that the Armenian genocide occurred. Merry Lucero sat down with prize winning poet and scholar Peter Balakian who wrote a book on what he called the hidden holocaust of the Armenian genocide. Note to viewers, some of the images coming up are of a graphic nature.
Merry Lucero: The disaster began in the 1890's when some 200,000 Armenians were massacred under the ottoman empire. Peter Balakian, author and Armenian genocide historian.
Peter Balakian: In 1915 alone the Turkish government massacred close to 1 million Armenians. They are the largest Christian minority population living on its homeland in central and eastern turkey. Before it was all over, 1.5 million Armenians would be annihilated in what had become the first modern genocide. The first instance in which a government used technology and bureaucracy in a fine tuned and systematic way to exterminate an ethnic population.
Merry Lucero: So Balakian primarily a poet and memoirist became a historian with the burning tying rest, the Armenian genocide and America's response.
Peter Balakian: Of course, I've been obsessed with the Armenian genocide for a couple of decades in my work. But the break through for me was in understanding that the Armenian genocide had been a huge event for Americans. And I'm trained in American studies. That's what my doctorate work is in. I wear many hats as a teacher at colgate university but one of them is as a professional American studies scholar.
Merry Lucero: Balakian details the united states humanitarian role in the genocide.
Peter Balakian: Beginning in the 1890's and through to the 19 20's, the American involvement to save, rescue and advocate justice for the Armenian people in the ottoman empire constituted America's fist international human rights movement.
Merry Lucero: The author focuses on what he calls the Turkish government's propaganda campaign to try to stop the history of the genocide from being known.
Peter Balakian: I would under store what so many scholars in the genocide studies arena say, and that is that the denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide. Because it seeks to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators. And it sends the message that, in this case, genocide, perhaps the ultimate human crime, genocide doesn't matter. It demands no moral accountability.
Merry Lucero: Balakian says the denial comes with large ethical aspects and embodies issues that have to do with justice.
Peter Balakian: And justice is very important to prevention. I mean, I think one of the lessons of the Armenian genocide is the negative lesson of impunity. When the perpetrator is allowed to commit a monstrous crime, the Turkish government, for example, allowed to exterminate wholesale its Armenian population and get away with it. The impunity inspires dictators and tyrants in the future.
Merry Lucero: How important is learning about the Armenian genocide to understanding the 20th century?
Peter Balakian: The Armenian genocide was the template for all genocide to follow, for every genocidal event in some way intersects with the Armenian case, whether it be the holocaust, Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia, the Rwandan genocide. So this is a template for all genocide to follow and it is a huge part of world war I. You cannot understand the great war, the war that changed modern times, that initiated the 20th century into the domains of mass violence that would follow without understanding how the Armenian genocide was a key part to what that war was.
Michael Grant: Armenian genocide, exploring the issues, airs tonight at 10.
Merry Lucero: Arizona democratic congressman Raul Grijalva joins Michael Grant to talk about the latest issues in congress. Also the most recent battle of the civil war took place near Phoenix. It's the 144th anniversary of the battle of Picacho Pass. Join us to talk about the battle Tuesday on Horizon.
Michael Grant: Wednesday we'll talk with Arizona congressman Ed Pastuer. Thursday discussion with columnist David brooks and on Friday join us for the journalists roundtable. I'm Michael Grant. Thanks for joining us this evening. Good night. ¶¶[music]¶¶
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