SB 0939 Changes Missouri Adoption Laws
LR Number:S3517.01I Fiscal Note:3517-01
Committee:Aging, Families and Mental Health
Last Action:04/02/96 - SCS Voted Do Pass S Aging, Families & Mental Health Commit
Effective Date:August 28, 1996
Full Bill Text | All Actions | Senate Home Page | List of 1996 Senate Bills
Current Bill Summary

SCS/SB 939 - This act makes many changes to Missouri's adoption laws.

The act requires putative fathers to provide the Department of Health's Putative Fathers Registry with specific information including the father's full name and aliases he might use and his residence and mailing addresses. It also provides that any person filing a notice of intent to claim paternity must notify the registry of a change of address.

The Department of Health will be required to prepare: (1) forms for registration of paternity; (2) a form for the search of the putative father registry; (3) a pamphlet about the putative father registry and to publicize its existence.

This act specifies the necessary proof of adoption in a foreign adoption which must be provided to obtain a birth certificate from the Department of Health and to have an adoption recognized by the Missouri Courts. Such proof of adoption includes a copy of the original birth certificate and adoption decrees, an English translation and a copy of the approval of the immigration of the adopted person by the U.S. government.

The act also provides that the Prosecuting Attorney or the Director of the Division of Family Services may file suit against a foster home, residential care facility or child placing agency for statute violations and may request injunctive relief, including removal of the children from the facility, overseeing the operation of such facility or closing the facility.

The act changes the methods by which a Juvenile Court may terminate the rights of a parent including: (1) if the parent has consented in writing to the termination of his parental rights in front of two adult witnesses who may not be the prospective adoptive parent(s); (2) if the parent has left the child without any provision for parental support, including failure to pay for reasonable prenatal, natal and postnatal expenses; and (3) if the parent has been found guilty of a felony sex offense when the child was the victim.

The act specifies where a petition for adoption may be filed in situations where the person to be adopted is not in the prior and continuing jurisdiction of the court and where the petition for adoption may be filed when the person to be adopted is in the prior and continuing jurisdiction of the court.

The act would allow a parent to voluntarily place a child in the care of a relative within the 3rd degree who is not the prospective adoptive parent for a time not to exceed 90 days for the purpose of considering an adoptive placement. The parent would also be allowed to voluntarily place a child in the care of an organization or institution that is not a child placing agency for a time not to exceed 90 days for the purpose of considering an adoptive placement.

Any birth parent who can't afford an attorney may have an attorney appointed by the court in cases when an adoption petition is filed by an adoptive parent on grounds provided in section 211.447 of this act. The court may appoint an attorney to represent the birth parent when: (1) the birth parent requests representation; or (2) the court finds that hiring an attorney to represent such birth parent would cause an undue financial hardship for the birth parent.

The person placing the child for adoption should provide the prospective adoptive parent with a written report regarding the child including a medical examination of the child conducted no more than 45 days prior to the written report, a medical and psychological history of the child, a social history of the child, the child's racial, ethnic and religious background and a general description of the child's parents. The report shall not include identifying information regarding a birth parent unless the birth parent consents to the disclosure of this information.

The act specifies who is required to consent to the adoption of a child, the procedure to obtain the consent and the content of the consent form. The consent may be withdrawn at any time until it is reviewed, accepted and signed by the judge.

The act specifies that the Division of Family Services or any agency placing the child shall conduct an investigation and file a written assessment report of the petitioner(s) for adoption. The written assessment report shall include: (1) personal interviews; (2) visits to the home; (3) identifying information on each member of the household; (4) current address and phone number; (4) 3 personal references from people unrelated to the petitioners; (5) 1 personal reference from a relative of the petitioners; (6) documents from an employer confirming employment status of the petitioner; and (7) reports whether the petitioner or any members of the family have been the subject of a restraining order for domestic violence.

A six month post placement evaluation shall be conducted to determine (1) the child's progress during the placement period; (2) the petitioner's progress in parenting the child; (3) observations of the relationship between the child and petitioner; (4) and a recommendation regarding the adoption.

The court shall require the petitioner in any proceeding for adoption to file at the time of filing the petition an itemized billing statement for (1) foster care of an agency in connection with the adoption; (2) advertising; (3) medical, hospital, nursing, pharmaceutical, travel or other similar expenses incurred by a mother or child in connection with the birth or any illness of the child; (4) counseling services for a parent or a child before and after the child's placement for adoption; (5) reasonable living expenses of a mother for no more than 6 weeks after birth; (6) expenses incurred in obtaining information required concerning the medical, social, psychological, psychiatric condition of the child or the birth parents; (7) legal services; (8) expenses incurred in obtaining a preplacement evaluation; and (9) any other services the court finds is reasonably necessary.

The act details criteria which the court must use to determine if custody should be transferred or an adoption should be finalized and allows the court to order the Division of Family Services to investigate violations of the laws pertaining to adoption.