BOSTON, MA – In January, 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.
“The COVID-19 era highlighted the need to update some of our policies for our most vulnerable residents,” said State Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “Having access to an identification card is crucial for those experiencing homelessness to be able to utilize the services our Commonwealth provides and set themselves on a better path.”
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 to adopt a younger individual if they are that individual’s brother, sister, uncle or aunt. 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.
“Each family is unique in their own way and it’s important that we do our best to create a stable environment for children going through our adoption system,” said O’Connor. “Massachusetts remains only one of two states that prohibits adoption by close relatives such as adult siblings or aunts and uncles – every child deserves a home with people who know them and love them. This legislation takes us one step closer to that reality.”
Both bills now move on to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.