Governor Perdue Signs Foster Care Legislation Giving Foster Parents Stronger Voice In Deciding Children's Best Interests
|Wednesday, May 7, 2003||
Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774
Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue today signed into law foster care legislation that will give foster parents the opportunity to provide current critical information about the needs and best interests of foster children.
"Having served as a foster parent with my wife Mary, it is my distinct honor to sign into law Senate Bill 236. I am pleased that this law will positively impact the lives of foster parents and children," said Governor Perdue. "Foster children share a unique and personal relationship with their foster parents. Through this relationship, foster parents gain valuable insight into the best interests of the children in their care. This insight will now have an important role in the placement decision for foster kids."
Senate Bill 236 was passed with unanimous votes in Georgia's Senate and House of Representatives. The bill received favorable reports from the Senate's Children & Youth Committee and the House's Judiciary Committee.
Governor and Mrs. Perdue have served as foster parents since 1998, providing care for eight infants. As of March 2003, Georgia has 14,446 children and 3,530 families in the state foster care program.
As passed by Georgia's legislators, Senate Bill 236 will:
- Encourage foster parents' participation in all reviews and hearings regarding children in their care.
This change will:
- Improve notice to foster parents and custodians of reviews and hearings.
- Ensure that foster parents and custodians are given the opportunity to be heard. Currently, foster parents have the right to be heard, but DFCS and the courts sometimes fail to notify or make the opportunity available. This legislation will make foster parents more aware of their rights and opportunities to provide information about the child. It is hoped that more foster parents will exercise these rights and opportunities to give input regarding the child's best interest.
- Clarify that the court has the responsibility and authority to make the decision on the permanent living plan that is in the best interests of the child after considering the input of all available persons who are knowledgeable about the child, including foster parents.
- Require that the search for relatives be accomplished in the first 90 days after the child comes into foster care to prevent a later disruption in the child's bonded relationship.
- Clarify the courts' options for permanent placement of a child to meet the child's best interests and to provide greater stability for children from broken homes.
- If the court determines that reunification of a child with his or her parents is not in the best interests of the child, termination of parental rights in preparation for adoption is usually the next step. Where termination is not appropriate for reasons such as extended family relationships, the court can place the child permanently with a fit and willing relative, with a guardian, or in another planned permanent living arrangement.
- This legislation will clarify present law and practice by recognizing appropriate circumstances in which licensed child-caring agencies can provide permanent care in a home-like setting.
- The court will continue to protect the child by annual reviews of the living arrangement.