The S.C. House has given overwhelming support to new bills that seek to make it easier for children in foster care to move into permanent families through adoption. The legislation was referred to the S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee in early February.
“I have a passion for children who are most vulnerable to have permanent placement,” says S.C. Rep. Raye Felder (R-York). Felder is a co-sponsor of S.C. H. 3442, which passed 103 to 0, and H. 3465, which passed 99 to 1.
The way foster children currently are handled can lead to months or years of foster limbo, even when their birth families want them to be adopted. The adoption process is held up by red tape.
“The sooner a child can have family placement with continuity, then I think that child’s success is increased,” she says.
In recent years, state court decisions have created a situation where only DSS has the ability to place children for adoption, ignoring the desires of the birth parents, foster parents, and others, who might desire to petition to adopt.
Trey Ingram, an attorney at Smith Moore Leatherwood, has seen the foster system problems from the perspective of a lawyer working on behalf of birth parents and also as a foster parent. His family of six, including four daughters, has fostered infants. They have a foster baby now and, until December, had a toddler foster boy they had raised from infancy.
The foster boy’s mother chose the Ingrams to be her son’s parents, but because of the way the current foster laws are being interpreted, they were not able to ask the courts for the right to adopt the boy.
“The court was not even able to consider whether or not we should adopt him because we did not have standing because of the current interpretation [of the law],” Ingram says.
The child’s birth parent had no rights regarding where her son would end up, and that’s a situation that the legislation hopes to change, Ingram says.
“Until you walk in their shoes, you don’t know what it might be like to face the prospect of the state taking your child forever and your never knowing where the child goes,” Ingram explains.
“I’ve heard people say this is a foster parent-friendly bill because it will allow foster parents to adopt,” he adds. “Actually, everyone needs this bill: parents need it to select the parent of their choosing; grandparents need the bill. This bill clarifies [adoption] standing across the board, equally.”
Recently, Ingram spoke with a woman whose child was taken into foster care, and the parent wanted to relinquish her parental rights and place the child with a Christian adoption agency. She said she’d rather have her child placed with a Christian agency that would find a good home for her child than continue to fight DSS to have her child returned to her. But she quickly learned that she would not be able to suggest that her child be placed with the adoption agency, he explains.
“This bill would allow her to do that,” he says.