Good news Alabamians!
On Wednesday, April 24th, 2013, Gov. Bentley is scheduled to sign into law a bill that could revolutionize foster care and adoption in Alabama.
In a recent post, Improving Foster Care and Adoption, we chronicled the efforts of Speaker Hubbard’s Office to diagnose and treat Alabama’s ailing foster care and adoption system.
We found that in the years between 2006 and 2012, Alabama’s foster care system dropped from 6th in the nation to 33rd. In addition, we found that 1,770 children a year die from abuse and neglect in America – and if you’re counting, that almost 5 children per day.
Our research led us to conclude that one of the biggest areas for improvement in Alabama was the time that it takes for a judge to make a decision on a petition to terminate the parental rights of biological parents that have been found to be unfit.
The culmination of this collaborative effort is a House Bill 115 / SB 307 known as “Best Interest of the Child” Act. In summary, the “Best Interest of the Child” Act would:
1. Require DHR to file a petition to terminate parental rights of a parent(s) of a child who has been in foster care for 12 of the last 22 months instead of the current 15 out of 22 months in statute.
2. Give judges a maximum of 90 days to hear TPR cases once service of process has been perfected and 30 days after to issue the court’s order. Alabama is one of only 17 states that do not currently have time guidelines in statute that judges must abide by to hear and issue orders in TPR cases. Currently, it takes an average of almost three years to move a child placed into foster care into a permanent adoptive home. Alabama is in the bottom ten states in this statistic.
We believe this legislation will have two main positive impacts: 1) move children out of foster care or other temporary homes sooner, and 2) move children into permanent adoptive homes sooner, thus increasing the adoption rate.
So, Alabamians … an immediate way to have an impact on foster care and adoption in Alabama is to get the word out about this excellent legislation. This is exactly the kind of laws that we want our elected officials to fight for. Let’s thank our legislatures for making Alabama a safer place for its children.