Governor Mark Sanford joined legislative leaders and children's advocates today to sign S.1172, legislation aimed at speeding up and improving the process transitioning South Carolina children in foster care into permanent adoptive homes. This bill is a direct result of recommendations made by the Governor's Children in Foster Care and Adoption Services Task Force, a group created by Executive Order in 2007 and tasked with identifying ways to improve the efficiency and quality of the state's foster care and adoption processes. Specifically, this legislation allows family courts overseeing the adoption process to cut through red tape in cases of severe abuse and neglect, and places a greater responsibility on parents in these cases to demonstrate their readiness for parenthood.
"This administration has consistently advocated for making the adoption process easier for South Carolinians trying to adopt, and this bill represents a small but meaningful step in that direction," Gov. Sanford said. "Whether it's fully restoring the adoption incentive benefit, or allowing more in the way of flexibility for state employees to become foster parents, we've always tried to encourage adoption and quality foster care in South Carolina. On that front, I'd give real credit to George Milner and Carl Brown, the Co-Chairmen of our Adoption Task Force, as well as the other Task Force members * including various children's advocates and legislative leaders from across South Carolina. For this legislation in particular, I'd commend Senators Mike Fair and Paul Campbell, as well as Representatives Joan Brady and Bruce Bannister, for their efforts * and ask all involved to continue looking for ways to provide for the most vulnerable children in our state."
During Gov. Sanford's first term, the Department of Social Services enacted a number of reforms to streamline and expedite the adoption process, including: fully restoring the adoption incentive benefit from $250 to $1,500; unifying the certification process for adoptive and foster families; looking for ways to give foster parents some of the same rights as biological parents; working with faith-based groups to recruit potential foster families; and working with the court system to identify ways to speed up the adoption process. Over the last seven years, finalized adoptions have steadily increased in South Carolina. In 2003, only 329 adoptions were finalized, while last year, 523 were finalized. During just the last two years, the average time a child waits to be adopted has been reduced from 45 to 39 months * a six month reduction.