Senate approves adoption reform bills

 

LANSING—The Michigan Senate approved legislation today that will help speed up adoptions for thousands of foster children, said state Sen. John Proos.

Senate Bills 218, 219 and 220 would allow the Michigan Children’s Institute superintendent within the Michigan Department of Human Services to authorize a designee to approve adoptions or guardianships for children who are wards of the state.

“The best place for a child is a loving, stable and permanent home,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Under current law, the MCI superintendent must personally approve each and every adoption in foster care. The unnecessary regulation has caused a backup in the placement of children in good homes. Today’s action is a step toward doing the right thing and putting the interests of children first.”

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, when parental rights are involuntarily terminated by the court, or voluntarily relinquished after child protective proceedings have been initiated, the child becomes a ward of the state and the MCI superintendent becomes the child’s legal guardian. The superintendent must give consent before a child can be adopted or have a guardian appointed.

“I co-sponsored this reform because I have seen families in southwest Michigan wait inordinately long periods for the department to get around to approving an adoption,” Proos said.  “The superintendent received more than 1,100 cases for approval in the past year, it is unrealistic and unfair to expect a single individual to review thousands of cases a year and do so in a prudent manner. These bills will enable him to focus his efforts on contested custody cases that require more time and attention.”

In 2008, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan and DHS Director Ismael Ahmed invited the 13 counties with the largest adoption dockets to participate in a forum identifying barriers to adoption. Delays in receiving the MCI superintendent’s consent was identified as a common obstacle to adoption.

Corrigan, now DHS director, and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly testified in support of the bills to the Senate Family, Seniors and Human Services Committee meeting in March.

SBs 218, 219 and 220 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.