For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2014

Contact: Kyle Aubuchon
(573) 751-4843
Senator Libla’s Bill Speeds Up Adoption Process for Children in the Foster Care System

JEFFERSON CITY - By an overwhelming vote in both the Senate and the House, the General Assembly passed my sponsored Senate Bill 530, which provides incentives to parents whose children have been removed from their home because of a parent’s drug, alcohol, or prescription drug abuse to seek treatment in a timelier manner.

My goal in filing this legislation was to encourage addicted parents to get the help they need to provide a safe, nurturing home for their children, or depending on their commitment to a healthy family unit, not let their children languish in the foster care system. This will relieve foster and prospective adoptive homes of the agonizing wait in considering a parent’s progress in addressing his or her addiction, and make it faster and easier to get these children out of foster care and into a caring and loving home through adoption.

We have more than 12,000 children in foster care with an annual state expense of over $52 million, which is a more than 40 percent increase just in the last 36 months. In addition, most of the expense of legal representation and court costs is borne by counties in our state.

Children removed from their homes because of parental drug or alcohol abuse previously averaged 15 months before a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights (TPR) was ordered by the court. Federal and state law intends to secure the permanent placement of a child as quickly as possible, through adoption or guardianship.

Senate Bill 530 streamlines the process of TPR for those parents who choose not to seek help, by adding to the circumstances under which they are considered unfit. This bill empowers the courts to take into clearer consideration a parent’s efforts of rehabilitation, allowing the judge to presume a parent is unfit if he or she does not put forth an immediate effort to rehabilitate.

History shows that one year after a child is placed in state custody as a result of a parent’s addition, a very small percent of those parents ordered into a treatment program ever enrolled. Nationally, as many as 75 percent of children who were removed because of drug abuse in their home and placed in state custody were eventually returned to state custody after returning to their home for reunification. With this endless cycle, these children continue to lose hope while in the foster care system. They watch helplessly as their chance of being adopted by a loving family passes them by year after year.

This legislation, which was signed by the governor and will take effect Aug. 28, will provide a quicker resolution to this growing problem in today’s society and allow social workers to be safer and enhance their ability to conduct their investigations, while also reducing time and money spent. Their caseloads will also be dramatically lighter, allowing social workers to help those who really want it. The hopes and dreams of these children being adopted will be greatly enhanced. After all, children have rights, too.

Senator Doug Libla proudly serves the citizens of Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard counties in the Missouri Senate.