Governor signs bill making foster child adoptions easier

Governor Robert Bentley signing the Best Interest of the Child Act Wednesday in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Bentley's Office)

Adoptions involving foster children will be streamlined in Alabama under a new law that Gov. Robert Bentley has signed.{}

Bentley and legislative leaders say the Best Interest of the Child Act will prevent foster families from having to wait several years before being able to adopt children in their care.

The law shortens from 15 months to 12 months the time that must pass after a child is in state custody before a court can consider a request to terminate parental rights.Courts will now have just 90 days from receiving a petition to hold a trial on the question of parental rights. A final order will be due within 30 days of the trial.The governor praised the law, noting that two of his four children were adopted.Release from the Office of Governor Robert Bentley:

Governor Robert Bentley on Wednesday held a ceremonial bill signing forSenate Bill 307, a measure that helps expedite the process for children to beadopted into permanent homes.

"This bill cuts down on the time it takes to move children out offoster care and into permanent, loving homes," Governor Bentleysaid.{} "Dianne and I are the parents of two adopted sons, and weknow the love and joy that adopted children bring to families.{} Allchildren deserve a safe and stable home environment, and this legislation willmake that available to more children."

The legislation requires the Department of Human Resources to file apetition to terminate the parental rights of a parent (or parents) of a childwho has been in the foster care system for 12 of the most recent 22 months.{}Prior to the passage of SB307, filing a petition to terminate parentalrights was based on 15 of the most recent 22 months.

SB307 also requires the completion of a termination of parental rightstrial within 90 days after the petition has been served and requires the trialcourt judge to enter a final order within 30 days of the completion of the terminationof parental rights trial.

"The safety and care of Alabamachildren is always our number-one priority," Alabama House Speaker MikeHubbard (R-Auburn) said.{} "This law is the result of months ofresearch and work to pinpoint the best way to improve foster care and adoptionin our state.{} I am proud that our efforts will have an immediate,positive and long-term impact in the lives of Alabama children and families across thestate."

The legislation was sponsored by Senator Jerry Fielding and RepresentativeMike Jones.

"As a former juvenile court judge, I've seen first-hand thestress that drawn-out foster care proceedings can have on a child," Sen.Fielding (R-Sylacauga) said.{} "That's why Iwas proud to{}sponsor this bill that will streamline the process and ensurea child is placed in a stable environment in a timely fashion."

"As a family law professional, I see first-hand the amount oftime Alabama children can spend waiting in foster care, and I knew somethingmust be done," Rep. Jones (R-Andalusia) said.{} "The'Best Interests of the Child Act' takes great strides towardspeeding up the adoption process and ensuring children in foster care areplaced in a permanent, loving home much more quickly."