Adoption and foster care reform bill goes to full House

Legislative, Session, House of Representatives, Kentucky
WTVQ/Matt Groves

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A family trip to Niagara Falls a couple of years ago became somewhat problematic for House Majority Caucus Chair David Meade and his family after they crossed into Canada.

Meade, R-Stanford, who was a co-chair of the 2017 House Working Group on Adoption, said the snag occurred when a border guard questioned the birth certificate of his Korean-born adopted daughter. Current state law requires birth certificates for those adopted outside the U.S. clarify that the birth certificate is not evidence of U.S. citizenship, he said.

- Advertisement -

“He would not let us cross until he got approval from his supervisor to do so,” said Meade.

House Bill 1, sponsored by Meade, would remove that language. It is one of dozens of proposed changes in the bill approved today by the House Health and Family Services Committee per recommendations of the working group.

The overall purpose of the reform bill, said Meade, is to begin to reform Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system for more than 8,600 children in state out-of-home care who may or may not be able to return home to family.

Some more significant provisions of the bill would allow the state to charge a mother with child abuse if she gives birth to a drug-addicted baby, streamline rules for termination of parental rights, and ensure that dependent, neglected or abused children placed in foster care are reunified with family or placed in a new permanent home in a timely manner.

“Right now, the Cabinet (for Health and Family Services) does a six-month case permanency review. We are also adding that every three months after that that they would go back and do another review on that child, just to make sure that we are keeping up with that child and are doing what is best in their plan,” said Meade.

In keeping with around 27 other states, Kentucky would also create a confidential “putative father registry” under HB 1. The registry will allow a man who thinks he could be the father of a child – but whose paternity hasn’t been established and who was not married to the child’s mother before or at the time of birth – to register with the state in order to be notified of the child’s prospective adoption.

More work on adoption and foster care could come in later years through the work of a Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee that would also be created by HB 1. It would be the job of that committee to “review, analyze, and provide oversight to the General Assembly on child welfare” in the state, according to HB 1.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, who co-chaired the 2017 adoption working group with Meade and joins him as a primary sponsor of HB 1, said she is proud of the bill. Jenkins, D-Shively, said HB 1 includes input from the executive and judicial branches and from First Lady Glenna Bevin, who Jenkins said was “very much involved” in the process.

“We were able to compromise on many, many areas, and I think we have an excellent work product here,” she said.

HB 1 now goes to the full House for consideration.