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Governor Sonny Perdue Proposes Legislation Giving Foster Parents A Voice

Monday, March 3, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue today submitted legislation to the Georgia Senate that will enable foster parents to provide input to the courts regarding the foster child's future care.

"When making placement decisions regarding children from broken homes, our courts have often only relied on recommendations from the Department of Family and Children's Services. (DFACS). Although DFACS provides valuable insight, foster parents are being left out of the loop. More often than not, foster parents typically do not have the opportunity to provide critical current information about the child's needs and interests," said Governor Sonny Perdue.

"As a foster parent, I am aware of the type of knowledge and genuine interest in the child's future that foster parents can bring to this important process. In many cases, foster parents have been with the children for years - and can provide valuable insight into the needs and bests interests of the child."

Governor and Mrs. Perdue have served as foster parents since 1998, providing care for eight infants. As of January 2003, Georgia has 14,472 children and 3,507 families in the state foster care program.

The bill is jointly authored by Georgia State Senators Bill Stephens (R- Canton), Daniel Lee (R- LaGrange) and Sam Zamarripa (D- Atlanta). Senators Stephens and Lee also serve as Governor Perdue's Senate floor leaders.

Legislation Ensures Foster Parents Will Be Heard

The proposed legislation seeks to make foster parents a necessary witness in placement hearings. Specifically, the bill will ensure that foster parents and custodians are given notice of hearings and ensure that foster parents and custodians are given the opportunity to be heard.

Currently, foster parents have the right to be heard, but many courts do not make the opportunity available and many foster parents are not able to exercise this right.

Legislation Clarifies Court's Options Regarding Child's Permanent Placement

The proposed legislation also aims to clarify that the court has the responsibility and authority to make the decision on the permanency plan that is in the best interests of the child after considering the input of all persons who have a right to be heard, including foster parents.

Specifically, the bill will clarify the courts' options for permanent placement of a child in order to meet the child's best interests and to provide greater stability for children from broken homes. Currently, if the court determines that placement of a child with foster parents or adoptive parents is not in the best interests of the child, the court can place the child in other planned permanent living arrangements.

This legislation will clarify present law and practice by recognizing public and private agencies as potential custodians, maintaining a 12-month review of the living arrangement. Additionally, if the license status of the facility changes, the courts must be notified within 10 days to allow for a review of the child's placement.