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Fact Sheet: Governor Perdue's Proposed Legislation Gives Foster Parents a Voice

Friday, April 4, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774

Governor Perdue is seeking support for the many Georgia families that provide care and a home for the state's foster children. Several weeks into the 2003 Session, Governor Perdue proposed significant changes in foster care law that will positively impact foster parents and foster children throughout the State.

When making placement decisions for children from broken homes, courts often rely only on recommendations of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). All too often, foster parents do not have the opportunity to provide critical current information about the child's needs and interests. In many cases, foster parents have been with the children for years-they often have valuable insight into the needs and bests interests of the child. The Senate Children and Youth committee passed Senate Bill 236 as a committee substitute on March 27, 2003. The committee substitute 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.

The Governor is hopeful that the Senate and the House of Representatives will join him to move foster care reform forward by passing this important legislation for Georgia's foster children and parents.