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Bill’s passage expedites the adoption process

Special legislation was signed into law last week that officials say will help expedite the process for children in Alabama to be adopted into permanent homes.
Gov. Robert Bentley held a ceremonial bill signing last week for Senate Bill 307, known as the Best Interests of the Child Act, which was sponsored by Senator Jerry Fielding (R-Sylacauga) and Representative Mike Jones (R-Andalusia).
“This bill cuts down on the time it takes to move children out of foster care and into permanent, loving homes,” Bentley said.
“Dianne and I are the parents of two adopted sons, and we know the love and joy that adopted children bring to families. All children deserve a safe and stable home environment, and this legislation will make that available to more children.”
The legislation requires the Department of Human Resources to file a petition to terminate the parental rights of a parent of a child who 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 parental rights was based on 15 of the most recent 22 months.
SB307 also requires the completion of a termination of parental rights trial within 90 days after the petition has been served and requires the trial court judge to enter a final order within 30 days of the completion of the termination of parental rights trial.
Jerry Groce, director of the Franklin County Department of Human Resources, said this bill will help their office achieve the goal of making sure the children in the care have the best environment possible.
“When a child has been in the foster care system for so long and there isn’t another suitable relative available to take custody of the child, the termination of parental rights is something that must happen in order for the child to be adopted,” Groce said.
“This legislation will shorten that time period and will be beneficial from our standpoint because the child will have a shorter time to wait before being freed up to be adopted into a permanent home.”
Groce said that it is always the ultimate goal to see the children in the care of DHR placed into a loving, stable environment.
“We want these children to grow up in permanent homes and have that sense of stability that adoption can offer them,” he said.
“There are many people who are looking to adopt children who have been abandoned or neglected and this gives them a chance to have that dream realized sooner as well.
“We have a strong partnership with our local court system and attorneys and this legislations will help us all continue to work together in the best interests of the children.”
For Sen. Fielding, Senate sponsor of the bill, the issue hit close to home.
“As a former juvenile court judge, I’ve seen first-hand the stress that drawn-out foster care proceedings can have on a child,” Fielding said.
“That’s why I was proud to sponsor this bill that will streamline the process and ensure a child is placed in a stable environment in a timely fashion.”
“As a family law professional, I see first-hand the amount of time Alabama children can spend waiting in foster care, and I knew something must be done,” said Rep. Jones, who sponsored the bill in the House.
“The ‘Best Interests of the Child Act’ takes great strides toward speeding up the adoption process and ensuring children in foster care are placed in a permanent, loving home much more quickly.”