House committee approves bill to ban 'rehoming' | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

House committee approves bill to ban 'rehoming'

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 11:16 AM

click to enlarge REP. DAVID MEEKS: Speaks for rehoming bill.
  • REP. DAVID MEEKS: Speaks for rehoming bill.
The House Judiciary Committee this morning endorsed HB 1676 by Rep. David Meeks to prohibit "rehoming" of an adopted child, except to another family member.

The bill is an outgrowth of our report that Rep. Justin Harris' rehoming of two adopted daughters to a home where one was molested by a man who'd been a teacher in Harris' Growing God's Kingdom state-subsidized pre-school. He put them in another home without notice to the state, from whom he'd adopted the children. They've since been adopted by another family who report they are doing well. Harris wasn't mentioned in committee this morning.

The bill makes rehoming a felony if a child is transferred without court approval. This would not include families, certain temporary placements of children and placement of children with a child welfare agency. The bill provides some additional protection against abandonment charges against parents by excusing those who've exhausted remedies for dealing with difficult children.

A separate bill by Rep. Greg Leding is expected to clear up questions about subsidies provided adoptive parents in the event a child is placed in another home.

Rep. Matthew Shepherd, chair of the committee, noted that an adopted child is no different than a biological child. After a one-year period — when fraudulent acts can be considered — an adoption is final. The only option for a family at that point if it believes it is incapable of handling a child is to have parental rights terminated. But this bill would prevent a family in such a situation from finding another home on their own, whether by Internet or other means.

Harris and the Department of Human Services have provided conflicting accounts of the circumstances that led him to put his children in another home after about a year of foster and adopted parenting. Harris has said he didn't get the support he needed from DHS and that he'd been threatened with abandonment charges after DHS learned he'd put the children with another family. DHS said it always attempts to work with families but said also that in rare cases, families had given up rights to children.

Meeks said this bill focused only on adoptions, as opposed to also including biological children, because of a desire for further study on potential consequences in covering those children. He said the abandonment amendment was made because they didn't want parents to fear "trying to do the right thing." He noted the bill also added a provision for family services to be sure adoptive parents get resources and support they need.

No one opposed the bill. Rep. Donnie Copeland said, "I was just flabbergasted it could even happen." But he said he'd learned that rehoming had occurred because of the difficulty of ending an adoption. He wondered if by making rehoming more difficult the state could be putting parents with a severely troubled child between a rock and a hard place.

Meeks said there were very few cases of rehoming, maybe less than a dozen in Arkansas, and only a few states had passed such laws. His is based on a law in Louisiana.

UPDATE: Later in the day, a committee approved Rep. Greg Ledings' HB 1648 to assure post-adoptive services are provided to families to prevent rehoming.

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