Georgia’s debate on adoption bill continues on in 2018. The bill was first introduced in 2017, but stalled after changes were made to the bill in the Senate.
Background on Georgia’s adoption bill, House Bill 159
In 2017, Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, introduced a 100-page bill that he said would modernize adoption law.
“The last time that Georgia’s adoption law was substantially worked on was 1990,” Reeves said. “So in the last 27 years, there have been a lot of changes, there have been a lot of adoption cases that have demonstrated flaws in our code section that have demonstrated a need for clarity in our code section. So what the goal was was to do a substantial revision or modernization of the code section and bring it up to 2017, essentially.”
The bill, House Bill 159, would change requirements for adopting children, provide for a nonresident to allow an adoption of his or her child, provide for adoption of foreign-born children, provide for a waiver to revoke a surrender of parental rights, change the age for individuals to access the Adoption Reunion Registry, among other changes.
Senate’s changes to HB 159 in 2017 stalls bill
However, the Senate’s changes to the bill had stalled the process. The “provisions would have allowed faith-based agencies to avoid placing children with same-sex couples,” according to ACJ.
“Legislation that would add ‘religious liberty’ protections to an unrelated bill dealing with adoptions has stalled in the Georgia Senate over objections it would allow private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBT families,” states ACJ.
The adoption bill debate continues in 2018
This “religious liberty” amendment has now been removed, but several senators still plan to revive the debate in separate legislation later this year. While “religious liberty” provisions have been dropped, the Senate also introduced content from HB 359, a bill that was vetoed last year by Gov. Nathan Deal. This would have allowed parents hand temporary custody of their kids to individuals of their choosing, if the parent was called to active military duty, entered drug rehab, or fell on hard financial times. Last year, when vetoing the bill, Gov. Deal said that HB 359 would have granted power of attorney for a child to an individual or nonprofit agency without state oversight for the child’s safety.
“We’re playing games with an adoption bill and risking it, and I don’t think that’s the most prudent course of action to take for families in Georgia,” said State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, about the Senate changing the bill. She says these changes hurts the bill’s chances of passing the Georgia General Assembly this year, according to AJC.
Another issue has been around adopting parents reimbursing birth mothers for basic living expenses. This may be rent, groceries, and lost wages while on bed rest for adoptions not run through child-placement agencies. The House wants private adoption attorneys to be able to offer living expenses to birth mothers, which currently only adoption agencies can do. The Senate argues that this could lead to buying and selling babies, saying they’re concerned that children would become a commodity.