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Governor Perdue Applauds Unanimous Support of Foster Care Legislation

Friday, April 25, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue stated today: "I applaud Georgia's legislators on the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 236. The significant changes we will make in Georgia's foster care laws will positively impact Georgia's foster parents and children."

The bill was passed with unanimous votes in Georgia's Senate and House of Representatives.

Added Governor Perdue: "The courageous action of Georgia's legislators ensures that foster parents will be given a strong voice and the opportunity to share critical information with the courts about the child's needs and interests. I am delighted we can now take this important step and sign this important legislation into law."

The original Senate bill was jointly authored by Georgia State Senators Bill Stephens (R- Canton), Daniel Lee (R- LaGrange) and Sam Zamarripa (D- Atlanta). 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.

Summary Information Regarding Foster Care Legislation

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 on 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.

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