19, No. 1
Recent Changes in NC Law Related to Adoption by Foster Parents
When it enacted House Bill 350 (Session Law 2013-129) during the 2013 Legislative Session, the North Carolina General Assembly amended several provisions of the Juvenile Code governing abuse, neglect, dependency, and termination of parental rights cases, including G.S. 7B-1112.1, which governs the selection of adoptive parents by a county department of social services (DSS). Recognizing that foster parents are often interested in adopting children in foster care who become eligible for adoption, the legislature enacted certain procedural safeguards related to due process for foster parents.
In the new legislation, the process of selecting adoptive parents remains the responsibility and within the discretion of DSS or the agency that has legal custody of a child. However, the new law states that:
While this amendment gives the foster parent notice and an opportunity to be heard in court, it does not make the foster parent a party to the juvenile case. When the juvenile court judge hears the motion filed by a foster parent, the judge will consider the recommendations of DSS, the guardian ad litem, and other facts related to the selection of adoptive parents. The judge then determines whether the proposed adoptive placement is in the child's best interest. If the judge determines the proposed adoptive placement is not in the child's best interest, the adoption petition is not filed and the adoption selection committee must reconvene to make a new selection. If foster parents who wish to adopt are again not selected, the procedure starts over.
However, legislative intent indicates DSS agencies should give serious consideration to foster parents who wish to adopt, unless the adoption is not in the child's best interest.
This law went into effect October 1, 2013 and applies to cases filed or pending after that date. Link to the legislation: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H350v4.pdf (See p. 18, section 36) .