In the best interest of the child

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It is my understanding that Governor Bentley signed a piece of legislation into law this week that will help children in foster care. The “Best Interest of the Child Bill” was presented as a result of children in Alabama lingering too long in foster care.

Many of these children spend three or more years waiting for the opportunity to be adopted by families who already love them and want to be their permanent placements. I am relieved to see this important piece of legislation become law. But, I still have some questions.

As many of you know we adopted three children out of foster care in 2009. Did you know that our children were in foster care four years before they were allowed to become adopted? We got them after they had been in foster care about a year. We fostered them for three more years waiting for the courts to terminate parental rights (TPR). We were fortunate to have the children in our home for most of their lives prior to the adoption. Let me say that I am not intentionally being insensitive to the feelings of birth parents. But, please know that every opportunity was given in hopes they would get their children back. When lack of interest on their part  became quite clear, we plowed forward through the tough, sometimes gut wrenching process of TPR and adoption. I remember yelling on the phone when yet another appeal was filed on behalf of the birth parents, “When do these kids get a break?!!!”

May I remind you that it is almost never the behavior of the child that lands them in foster care. This is a grown up problem, a self problem, a drug problem, a “got to have a man in my life” problem. So often mothers put the safety of their children in the back seat and let some low life drive them into a ditch.

There are as many excuses as there are people. But for every one of those excuses there is a child who desperately wants to belong somewhere.

So, with this new law … Will the appeals process be shortened? Whenever a parent’s rights are terminated they are given the opportunity to appeal, several times, without putting forth any evidence of change on their part and without expense.

Last time I heard there were three possibilities for appeal. This adds months if not years to the time a child spends in foster care. If a birth parent has not made any effort to change the situation that landed their child in the system, why do they get an appeal?

I could not find any information on how this new law would handle the appeals process. I do not mean to sound negative, I am truly glad that Alabama is stepping up and doing something to move us from 23rd in the country in foster care/adoption statistics.

Will the best interest of the child really be moving them into forever homes quickly so that attachments can be formed and they have a chance at a stable life with a bright future? The first few years are crucial. Let the families who are willing to adopt and nurture these kids into adulthood have their chance.

That is the best anyone could do for a child.

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