Alabama foster families who have fallen in love with the child in their care and wish to make it permanent may face fewer hurdles, per the passage of a new state adoption law that aims to streamline the process.
Birmingham adoption lawyers watched the developments of the measure intently, with Gov. Robert Bently signing it into law earlier this month.
The measure was reportedly a special one to Bently, who along with his wife has adopted two children, whom they are raising alongside their two biological children.
The new law, entitled the Best Interest of the Child Act, should prevent foster families from having to wait many years before being allowed to adopt children in their care.
One of the key provisions of Alabama Senate Bill 307 that it shortens the amount of time that a child must be in state custody before a court may consider a request to terminate parental rights. Instead of 15 of the last 22 months, that time frame is now 12 of the last 22 months months.
A petition for termination of parental rights must come from the Department of Human Resources.
Termination of parental rights is the first step to adoption for a foster family.
The court would have a total of three months to determine whether to terminate the parental rights. After the conclusion of that trial, the court would have a maximum of 30 days to issue a final order.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jerry Fielding, (R-Talladega) and Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia).
Fielding, a former juvenile court judge, said he saw first-hand the damage that can be inflicted when a child and their foster family is forced to wait on a snail-paced state system to make their family a legally binding one.
Certainly, the state must be cautious in not being too hasty to deprive a loving parent who made a mistake from the opportunity for a second chance. But when that parent has died or is serving a lengthy prison sentence or has abused the child in the past, there is little need to delay the legalization of a loving home that will create stability and security for these kids who have suffered so much.
This legislation should speed that process.
In order to adopt a child, the state of Alabama requires that a couple or individual meet the following criteria:
- Be at least 19 years of age or older;
- If married, the union must be at least 3 years in duration;
- If married, at least one individual should be a U.S. citizen;
- There must be adequate housing an personal space available for the child;
- You and your spouse must be healthy enough to meet the child's needs;
- Submission of character references;
- Successful completion of a home safety inspection;
- Proven family stability.
- Successful completion of a thorough background check that will include research of your criminal history.
Foster parents will have already gone through this process, so it will be far more streamlined for them. (The one difference is that foster parents need only be married one year, while adoptive parents need be married for at least three years.)
For those who wish to adopt a child in foster care, there are no fees associated with the process, as there might be with those who choose to adopt with the use of a private agency.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources reports there are approximately 5,300 children who are in an out-of-home foster care placement, but who are technically in state custody. Of those, about 300 have a plan of adoption where an adoptive family hasn't yet been identified.
If you are contemplating an adoption in Birmingham, contact Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
New Alabama law streamlines adoptions for foster children, May 8, 2013, Staff Report, Associated Press