It's in the news almost daily: the United States is in the midst of a widespread opioid epidemic. Opioid addiction is rampant here in North Carolina, and one consequence of the epidemic is that there are an estimated 11,000 children in the North Carolina foster system now. In an effort to address this foster care system crisis, lawmakers are considering a controversial bill, HB 918.
What HB 918 Would Do
If passed, HB 918 would expedite the adoption process for foster parents who have been caring for a child three years old or younger and who have cared for that child for at least nine months. The bill would allow the foster parents to file a motion to terminate the child's biological parents' rights, giving them the status of “nonrelative kin,” meaning they would be next in line to adopt if no birth relatives can be found (or who would agree) to adopt.
Proponents of the bill point to the statistics that many children born to drug-addicted parents bounce in and out of the foster care system as the biological parents may be able to stay clean for a while, only to relapse and have their children taken away from them again. These proponents ask which is more important: preserving a biological family or providing a stable environment for a child as soon as possible?
Questioning the Bill
Those who are arguing against HB 918 do not deny that there is a serious issue with the number of children in the North Carolina foster care system, but they worry the bill will eliminate biological parental rights too soon. State Representative Graig Meyer would rather see more judges, social workers, and guardians ad litem step up and support foster parents, as well as more of a focus on helping biological parents who are struggling with substance abuse. “If we had systems that were more responsive to addiction, and more people who were engaged in caring for the children who were impacted by addiction, we could navigate this without an additional state law,” he said.
Help for Addicted Parents
The University of North Carolina's Horizons Program is a treatment program developed for mothers addicted to various substances. From 2015 to 2016 Horizons treated 220 women, and 95% of those women went on to graduate from the program successfully. HB 918 may be well-intended, but it might also remove children whose mothers are in programs like Horizons.
TRUSTED CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY IN RALEIGH, NC
Whether you are a foster parent who is following the outcome of HB 918 closely or a biological parent who is trying to preserve your family, Jerkins Family Law can help. Contact Jerkins Family Law today. Family Law attorney Jay Jerkins has the experience and insight necessary for an outcome that accommodates your interests and rights. We are flexible, compassionate, and ready to help you today.