Sens. Jansen and Emmons introduce adoption bills

LANSING—Legislation designed to help speed up adoptions and guardianships was introduced Wednesday in the Michigan Senate, said package sponsors Sens. Mark C. Jansen, R-Gaines Township, and Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan.

Senate Bills 218, 219 and 220 would allow the Michigan Children’s Institute superintendent within the Michigan Department of Human Services to authorize a designee to approve adoptions or guardianships for children who are wards of the state.

“In some instances this consent from the state is all that’s preventing the placement of a child into a permanent home,” said Jansen. “Our top priority must be to do what is best for these children, and removing this obstacle helps us achieve that goal.”

According to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, when parental rights are involuntarily terminated by the court, or voluntarily relinquished after child protective proceedings have been initiated, the child becomes a ward of the state and the MCI superintendent becomes the child’s legal guardian.

The MCI oversees the child’s care, custody and placement, and the superintendent has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the youngster. The superintendent must give consent before a child can be adopted or have a guardian appointed.

“Finding a good, stable home for a child can be a life-changing event.  A permanent home can become the solid foundation on which a child can build a successful career and life,” said Emmons.  “This is about cutting out the unnecessary red tape and putting the best interests of children first.”

In 2008, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan and DHS Director Ismael Ahmed invited the 13 counties with the largest adoption dockets to participate in a forum identifying barriers to adoption. Delays in receiving the MCI superintendent’s consent was identified as a common obstacle to adoption.

SBs 218, 219 and 220 now head to the Senate Family, Seniors and Human Services Committee.