Legislation said to make adoptions easier in Georgia

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Cassie Laminack and her soon-to-be adopted son have travelled a long road to become permanent family. But it’s a journey that may get easier thanks to legislation making its way through the Georgia Legislature.

After eight months, one hopeful adoptive parent in Tallapoosa is seeing a light at the end of the long adoption tunnel.

Cassie Laminack, 28, a foster parent who hopes to adopt one of her foster children, said the wait has been difficult.

“If someone wants to walk this journey, they’re going to have to be super patient, because if you’re not patient, you’re not going to make it,” Laminack said.

Her journey is almost over, though. She believes the adoption should be approved in about a month.

Meanwhile the Georgia State Legislature is considering legislation that, according to one local attorney, could help simplify the process making it more attractive and hopefully quicker for the people who want to adopt.

This is the first time the legislature has taken up adoption in more than 25 years, said Chris Wynn, a family law attorney.

The legislation, House Bill 159, changes some language for clarification purposes, Wynn said. It also makes changes that will help get children into adoptive homes faster such as removing a requirement for the adoptive parent to be a resident of the state for six months before filing for adoption. Other changes also widen the pool of adoptive parents such as lowering the age at which a person can adopt a child related to them, he said. It removes a lot of unnecessary obstacles to adoption, Wynn said.

At the same time, the legislation addresses jurisdictional issues and takes a lot of the “legalese” out of the paperwork, and spelling the process out in more easily understood terms, he added.

Attempts to reach Representatives Bert Reeves and Wendell Willard, sponsors of the bill, for comment this week were unsuccessful.

“Adoption is one of the most feel good processes of law,” Wynn said. “But there’s a lot of red-tape and confusion.”

Most of the changes affect private adoptions rather than those through the foster care system, he said. The foster care system is so overloaded that the employees are often overworked, so the process can take longer, he said. Children end up aging out of the system, rather than finding permanent, adoptive homes, Wynn said.

Laminack agreed that social workers are overworked. They just can’t find homes fast enough for the children who need them, Laminack said.

“DFCS is so overwhelmed with children in care right now and not enough homes, they’re so overworked,” Laminack said. “Technically, he could have been adopted several months back and so I think its very hard to be patient through that.”

Walter Jones, director of legislative affairs and communication for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, said that the caseload has decreased for DFCS social workers over the last couple of years thanks to increased funding from the state that has allowed the department to hire more people. But he said an adoption through the foster care system may take longer than a private adoption anyway because of safeguards the department builds into the process including background checks and parental training.

“It’s certainly a major decision,” Jones said. “It shouldn’t be taken without a measured approach.”

He declined to comment on the legislation.

While the process has been lengthy, it has not been difficult, Laminack said.

“It’s not a lot of red tape or anything like that,” she said. “If you’re already a certified foster parent then it’s not much more paperwork.”

Her home just needed to transition to an adoptive home, Laminack said. To adopt, she had to show the department that she was financially able to take care of him and as a single mom, that she had a good support system, she said. Her family, many who live just over the state line in Cleburne County, Alabama, and her church friends, have always been a huge support to her, Laminack said.

It breaks her heart to see the great need caused by broken families, she said.

Jones said on Tuesday that there are 13,654 children in the foster care system in the state. Of those, 1,353, or about 10 percent, are eligible for adoption. Laminack, said she contacted the Region 3 DFCS, of which Haralson County is a part, for local information. There are 54 children in the region who are in need of adopted homes but have no one working toward adopting them, she said.

Her foster son was already living with her when his parents surrendered their parental rights in May 2017. The social worker first approached her about adopting him. Laminack said she thought about the idea, prayed about it and two weeks later started the process to adopt him. Even as she’s gone through the process she’s showered the child and another foster child living with her with maternal love.

“Honestly, to me he’s already my son,” she said. “It’s just we’re waiting on the paperwork.”

But the adoption will change her relationship with the boy in a few important ways, she said. She won’t have to ask permission from anyone anymore to get him medical treatment or take him out of state, Laminack said.

“I can be like, we’re going to Florida and it doesn’t matter who knows,” she said with a laugh. “We’re going and we’re going to the beach!”

While she is pro-adoption, Laminack cautioned that it isn’t easy. Because of their background, foster children do bring extra baggage with them, Laminack said. Foster children have often been through some rough times so they may have behavioral or medical issues, she said.

“It’s not always roses and photo shoots and fun times,” Laminack said.

But for her and her child, it’s been a beautiful journey to becoming a family, she said.

According to the Georgia Legislature’s website, House Bill 159 has passed the Senate in amended form and is awaiting action in the House of Representatives. It will have to pass the House and be signed by Governor Nathan Deal before becoming law.

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