Foster care can be a wonderful and rewarding experience for many parents. Unfortunately, the foster care system can often be very frustrating. Many times the courts put the reunification of a child with their parents above the child’s best interest. A recent foster care bill, HB 157, passed in Alabama, amended Section, 12-15-319, Code of Alabama, so that the child’s best interest is now, more than ever, a key factor in determining permanency for at-risk children.
The first amendment to Section 12-15-319 reads as follows – “In a hearing on a petition for termination of parental rights, the court shall consider the best interests of the child.” This explicitly sets children’s best interests as the focus of determining whether parents will retain their parental rights, which gives foster parents a stronger foundation to provide for foster children’s best interests.
In listing the specific factors to be considered when determining the termination of parental rights, the amendment adds a thirteenth factor. This factor makes provision for “bonding”, described as existing emotional ties between the child and the foster parents, considering points such as the length of time the child has lived with the foster parents and if separating the child from the foster parents would go against the child’s best interest.
In addition, the court is no longer required to consider relatives to be a legal guardian if two factors are present: if the relative did not attempt to gain custody of the child within four months of the child’s removal from their parents custody or placement in foster care, and if the goal of the permanency plan formed by the Department of Human Resources is to have the child adopted by the foster parents. This provision is a huge win for the best interest of the child and address the long hated “kin-come-lately” phenomenon; where an otherwise uninterested biological parent puts forward a distant relative as a potential placement on the eve before Termination of Parental Rights. This tactic has often derailed many proceedings to achieve permanency for the child. This statute closes that door.
Foster parents are a valuable asset to society, caring for those in need. All too often children are withheld stable, caring homes for the sake of maintaining an uninterested parent’s custody rights. This bill gives a greater scope of considerations in cases of foster children, and hopefully this will result in more beneficial circumstances for foster children.
If you need assistance or legal advice on adopting please reach out to us at the Adoption Law Firm to set up a consultation. Our firm consults with and represents many foster parents attempting to advocate for their child’s best interests in the Juvenile Court system.
Brennan DePace was born and raised as a pastor’s child and has carried with him the strong Biblical values passed on from his father. DePace is the youngest of five children who received a rigorous and thorough home-schooled education. He is now a Freshman at Auburn University at Montgomery studying History, with the hopes of attending law school and becoming an attorney. DePace serves as Legal Assistant to the Hon. Samuel J. McLure of The Adoption Law Firm.