VIRGINIA OFFICIALS talk a good game when it comes to rehabilitating criminal convicts. In practice, they fall short. The state remains one of the nation’s most mean-spirited when it comes to restoring voting rights to convicted felons, a process that is automatic or nearly so in most states, and Republicans would like to make the rules still more stringent. Virginia is no more forgiving — we would say, no more humane — in determining who may, or rather may not, adopt children.
A case in point is Laura Tarantino, a 28-year-old Alexandria woman who, with her husband, Frederick, an Air Force reservist, is the parent of a 5-year-old boy. The Tarantinos would dearly love to adopt a child — Laura was herself adopted as a baby — but cannot, owing to her convictions, as a teenager and as a 21-year-old on a pair of drug charges, the second of which sent her to prison for a year.
As described by The Post’s Victoria St. Martin, the heart-rending saga of the Tarantinos’ struggle to adopt is a case study of a capricious and arbitrary law whose real-world effect is not just cruel but senseless, too. If Ms. Tarantino lived in Maryland or the District, or a number of other states, she and her husband would be eligible to adopt a child, having cleared the five-year waiting period following her felony convictions. In the commonwealth, however, a 10-year hiatus following conviction is required. And so the Tarantinos, barred from adoption until 2019 by Laura’s 2009 conviction, wait, and wait — and lobby for a change in the law.
Granted, some criminal convictions — certainly any that involve serious violence, or abuse of minors — are grounds for disqualifying would-be parents from adopting children. For many other crimes, including many drug offenses, a waiting period before adoption is a fair and reasonable restriction.
But a 10-year wait, for Ms. Tarantino’s heroin possession conviction, is excessive. State law should allow for a case-by-case assessment of prospective adoptive parents whose individual merits and circumstances vary enormously.
Such is the Virginia law’s arbitrariness that a criminal conviction for breaking and entering of a home with the intent of theft would mean a 25-year wait for a perpetrator who hoped to become a foster parent. But the same convict would never be able to adopt a child. Ever.
The welfare of an individual child is the paramount concern, as Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Albemarle) rightly told The Post. But in an undertaking as subject to circumstance as the adoption of a child, a one-size-fits-all approach defies logic. If the state can make considered individual judgments about granting parole to convicts, why can’t it do the same for ex-felons who hope to become adoptive parents?