FRANKFORT—A bipartisan legislative initiative to reform Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system has been delivered to the governor to be signed into law.
House Bill 1, sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair David Meade, R-Stanford, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, reforms the state’s foster care and adoption system to ensure that a child’s time in foster care is limited and that children are returned to family whenever possible. The legislation is based on recommendations of the state House Working Group on Adoption, which met most of last year.
Meade, who is the father of both an adopted child and a biological child, explained the need for HB 1 when the bill first came to the House floor for a vote in February.
“We owe it to all these children, the parents, and the families across the state to start reforming a system in desperate need,” Meade told his colleagues. “This is an opportunity to do something truly remarkable for the children and the families of this state and start changing lives for some of the most vulnerable.”
More than 8,600 Kentucky children are now in foster care and awaiting permanent homes, according to committee testimony this session.
HB 1 includes major provisions that would expand the definition of blood relative for child placement and ensure that children in foster care are reunified with family or placed in another permanent home in a timely manner. The legislation would also require more case reviews for each child in foster care, create a “putative father registry” so that a child’s possible (but not verified) biological father can be notified of the child’s prospective adoption, and allow the state to seek termination of parental rights for new mothers who won’t seek drug treatment after giving birth to a drug-addicted baby.
Senate changes to HB 1 that made it into the final bill include provisions that would protect a mother from losing her parental rights if she was properly prescribed and using medication that could have caused her newborn’s addiction. The amended bill would also clarify that foster parents and child placement agencies be given a 10-day notice before a foster child is reunified with his or her birth parents or placed in a new home.
HB 1 received final passage yesterday on a vote of 90-1 in the House. It had passed the Senate unanimously earlier in the day.
Media Release from Legislative Research Commission