The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 8, 2013

New Alabama law streamlines adoption for foster children

Associated Press

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Adoptions of foster children will be streamlined in Alabama under a new law signed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

Bentley and legislative leaders say the Best Interest of the Child Act will prevent foster families from having to wait several years before they can adopt children in their care.

The law shortens from 15 months to 12 months the time that must pass after a child is in state custody before a court can consider a request to terminate parental rights. That legal step is necessary before foster parents can adopt a child.

Courts will now have just 90 days from receiving a petition to hold a trial on the question of parental rights. A final order will be due within 30 days of the trial. Current law doesn't set a time frame.

The governor praised the law, noting that two of his children are adopted. "Adoption is very special to me," Bentley said. "Diane and I have two adopted children and two biological children. I can tell you there is no difference."

House Speaker Mike Hubbard helped drive the bill. An Auburn Republican, Hubbard said he got the idea from Auburn University Athletics Director Jay Jacobs as the two talked in the Tiger Stadium press box during and Auburn-LSU football game in Baton Rouge, La.

Jacobs and his wife are foster parents. Hubbard said Jacobs raised concerns about how long foster parents must wait before starting the adoption process by terminating the rights of biological parents.

"We started working on this right then," Hubbard said.