Benefits of Georgia's New and Improved Adoption Laws

Georgia adoption laws

The coronavirus pandemic delayed but ultimately could not stop the state of Georgia from improving its adoption practices. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in early 2020, Governor Brian Kemp introduced bills that, among other perks, would streamline adoption in the state. Despite a two-month legislative shutdown last year, Kemp persevered, and this week, he signed six bills into law. Mark Niesse and Maya T. Prabhu report that the bills deliver a wide range of benefits for adoptive parents and adoptees.

One of the bills, House Bill 154, lowers the age at which Georgians can legally adopt, from 25 to 21. This is especially helpful for older siblings who wish to adopt younger siblings. Another bill, Senate Bill 107, provides free in-state college tuition for foster children and those who have been adopted from foster care. These students qualify if they enroll in college within three years of high school graduation and their families receive state adoption assistance, among other criteria. Other bills, according to Niesse and Prahbu, “deal with legal protections, allowing courts to consider secondhand testimony during child protective hearings, protecting case managers from arrest warrants for alleged offenses committed while doing their jobs, and expanding court access to child abuse records.”

These new laws are in addition to adoption laws from the recent past. A 2018 law allowed reimbursement to birth mothers for expenses incurred during private adoptions. In addition, House Bill 114, signed into law this March, increased tax credits for adoptive parents from $2000 to $6000 for each child adopted from foster care.

The results of these laws have been resoundingly positive. At the signing ceremony for the six most recent bills, Kemp enthused, “By making it more affordable to adopt, reducing bureaucratic red tape and championing the safety of children across our state, we can ensure that Georgia’s children are placed in those homes.” The facts speak for themselves: “The number of children in foster care has declined to about 11,000, the lowest level since 2015,” report Niesse and Prahbu.

Republican Representative Bert Reeves from Marietta commented on this victory, noting, “We have seen adoptions increase, we have seen Georgia families adopting in Georgia as opposed to going to other states, and most significantly we’ve seen our foster care populations reduced by literally thousands.” The adoption laws signed in Georgia over the past few years have been numerous, but as Reeves praises, “What’s so great is that it actually works.”