Too many children spend too much time in the foster care system awaiting either adoption or reunification with their birth families. The wait can seem like forever. 39% of children in foster care in the United States spend 18 months or more in the system. In 2013, that number was equal to 156,927 children who were living without stability for an extended period of time. While national legislation requires initiation of the parental right termination procedure after a child has been in care for15 months, there are still many loopholes these waiting children are falling through. Some children wait years before being adopted, and far too many “age out” of the foster care system without being adopted at all.
In an effort to provide increased stability, many states have enacted their own laws to decrease adoption wait times. Missouri recently passed Senate Bill 530, which Governor Jay Nixon signed into law on June 20, 2014 to help diminish this waiting time for their children in foster care. Now, if certain narcotics, prescription drugs, or alcohol are found in the mother or the child during pregnancy or within eight hours after birth, the child will be placed in the care of the Division of Family Services.
According to current state law, if birth parents do not meet the mandates of the court within 12 months, their parental rights will be terminated. This new law is expected to reduce the time a child will wait in the foster care system by beginning the court process before the child goes home to experience further abuse and neglect due to the parent’s addiction. The child can be placed with a stable foster family while the birth parent(s) seek help to deal with their chemical dependency issues.
Proponents of the bill testified that the wait time for children from these situations is at least 15 months. This instability and wait time impedes the child’s ability to bond and grow emotionally. Opponents spoke about the long struggle to overcome addictions. Further, there are current problems in the mental health system which makes it hard for Missourians to receive treatment for addictions. According to their arguments, there are currently 3,000 people on a waiting list who are seeking help in overcoming addiction in the state.
What do you think about this and other similar laws? Is one year enough time for a parent struggling with addiction to overcome that and create a secure environment for their child to come home to? Is 12 months a realistic expectation for birth parents to get sober, or should they be given more time? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comment section below.