"Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, has introduced a 100-page bill that he said will '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 [sic] to do a substantial revision or modernization of the code section and bring it up to 2017, essentially.'"
House Bill 159 looks to make many changes, mostly minor, in an attempt to streamline the entire adoption process.
"'We’re trying to eliminate red tape, and adoption is a grueling, long process,' Reeves said. 'One of the overarching goals of this bill is to try to make this process a little easier.'"
Here are some of the proposed changes:
- Jurisdictional Issues
- "Right now, if a Georgia birth mother is going to surrender their rights to a child and have their child adopted by parents that live in another state or a parent that lives in another state, at best, a combination of Georgia law and the other state’s law applies, which is extremely confusing and oftentimes conflicting. At worst, the other state’s law is the only law that applies completely, so a Georgian birth mother does not receive the protections of Georgia law." Reeves stated that should this bill becomes law, a Georgia birth mother can be completely covered by Georgia law if she is having a baby adopted by a parent or parents in another state.
- International Adoption
"'Right now, Georgia law has one paragraph that deals with the concept of international adoption,' Reeves said.
Today, if a parent goes to another country and adopts a child, the birth parents have to surrender rights to the child just like they would in the United States. The adoptive parents receive from the foreign government what is called a foreign decree of adoption. Once the new parents are back in Georgia, they need to domesticate that foreign decree so the adoption is officially recognized in Georgia.
Reeves said Georgia law currently has virtually nothing about this process, but his bill will add pathways for courts to recognize international decrees of adoptions."
"In order for the adoption process to take place, a birth mother usually has to sign what’s called a surrender of her parental rights.
Once the mother has done that, the adopted parents take the child home, often directly from the hospital.
Currently in Georgia law, the mother has 10 days to change her mind.
'Anybody that’s ever seen this happen up close will tell you those are the 10 hardest days that a person can imagine because they have taken this child home, but there is a chance that the birth mother could change her mind,' Reeves said. 'A lot of times, adoptive parents are reluctant to bond with the child until they know the 10 days are up and it’s final.'
The new bill will give birth mothers the ability to decide they do not want the additional time to rethink their decisions.
Reeves said the bill does not pressure or incentivize either way, it just allows mothers to make the decision if they want.
'It creates immediate finality,' he said. 'She doesn’t have to do that. But she has the option to. Adoption lawyers will tell you that most birth mothers want to be able to do that because they want finality just as much as the adoptive parents want finality.'
Reeves said other states have similar waivers in their adoption code."
"Reeves said the bill will also simplify forms and affidavits with a goal of making the process easier for laypeople to understand. The bill passed the House with 165 yeas and zero nays and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate."