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Adoption fraud bill held by legislative committee

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19 2013 7:15 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — After nearly two hours of debate, a bill intended to crack down on fraudulent representations by adoption agencies and their employees was held by a legislative committee Tuesday.

Opponents of SB183 said the state Office of Licensing has sufficient administrative authority to sanction adoption agencies.

"I don't think it's adequate. That's why we brought the bill to the attention of the committee," said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City.

But some members of the Senate Judiciary Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, including Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill went too far in defining fraud.

Moreover, it does not address the underlying problem in many disputed adoptions involving birth mothers from out of state, that the respective states do not recognize one another's paternity registries.

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, said the bill could conceivably "undo a lot of Utah's Adoption Act, which I don't believe is appropriate."

The committee voted to move to the next item on its agenda, which means the bill remains with the committee and the sponsor can ask to place it on the agenda of a future meeting.

Wes Hutchins, an adoption attorney who spoke for the bill, said more must be done to ensure adoption agencies operate legally and ethically.

"This puts some teeth into the adoption regulatory scheme," Hutchins said.

Ken Stettler, director of the state Office of Licensing, said there are 36 licensed adoption agencies in Utah, and approximately one-fourth have had complaints filed against them.

However, not every complaint is substantiated and results in corrective action or other sanctions. The agency is prepared to investigate and impose sanction when warranted, he said.

"If they come to our attention, we'll address them. There may be some we're not aware of," Stettler said.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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