Emmons adoption bills approved by Senate

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LANSING— Sen. Judy Emmons’ legislation designed to help speed up adoptions and guardianships was approved today by the Michigan Senate.

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.

“This is about eliminating unnecessary red tape and putting the best interests of children first,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “Placing a child in a permanent, nurturing home as quickly as possible is the best thing we can do to give them a foundation for success in life. This common-sense legislation will speed up the process and allow the superintendent to focus his time where it is needed most: contested custody cases.”

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.

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.

Corrigan, now DHS director, and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly testified in support of the bills before the Senate Family, Seniors and Human Services Committee meeting in March.

SBs 218, 219 and 220 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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