SB 327 - This act modifies several provisions relating to the parent-child relationship, including: (1) termination of parental rights; (2) adoption regulations; and (3) adoption proceedings.
TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS (Section 211.447)
This act modifies the definition of an abandoned infant or abandoned child, in cases of termination of parental rights, to mean a child three years of age or under instead of one year or under in current law. Additionally, the grounds for determining abandonment have been modified. Under current law, a child can be considered abandoned if the parent, without good cause, left the child without any provision for parental support and without making arrangements to visit or communicate with the child. This act modifies this language so that a child can be considered abandoned if the parent has, for a period of 60 days immediately prior to the filing of the petition to terminate parental rights, willfully, substantially, and continuously neglected to provide the child with necessary care and protection.
Under current law, a termination of parental rights may occur if the parent has been found guilty of certain felony offenses when the child or any child in the family was a victim. This act adds additional felony offenses to the list and removes the requirement that the child be a child in the family or that the child reside with the parent at the time of the offense.
This act modifies provisions relating to the circumstances under which the juvenile officer or Children's Division has the discretion to file a petition to terminate parental rights to change the determination of an "abandoned" child to mirror changes made under the provisions for mandatory termination of parental right proceedings, as well as modifies determinations of parental unfitness to include circumstances when the child has been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for at least 15 of the 22 months prior to the filing of the petition.
ADOPTION REGULATIONS (Sections 453.014, 453.030, and 453.070)
This act modifies provisions granting, under current law, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Senior Services regulatory authority for placing a child for adoption to instead grant such authority to the Children's Division and to repeal such authority from the Department of Health and Senior Services.
ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS (Sections 453.030 and 453.040)
Under current law, prospective adoptive parents or the child-placing agency shall pay reasonable attorney fees incurred by the birth parent throughout the adoption process, unless the court determines the adoptive parents are unable to pay such fees. This act repeals this provision, while retaining the provision guaranteeing the birth parent the right to legal representation. Additionally, this act repeals language permitting the court to appoint an attorney to represent the birth parent in cases where the hiring of an attorney would represent a financial hardship for the birth parent.
Finally, this act modifies the circumstances in which a parent's consent to adoption is not required to reflect the changes made to identifying "abandoned" children.
This act is substantially similar to SB 888 (2020).