Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed nine bills on Tuesday, including House Bill 359 (“Supporting and Strengthening Families Act.”) According to Greg Bluestein at the AJC, the bill would have allowed “parents to transfer power of attorney over their children to another family member or an outside agency for a year without going through the courts.”
Gov. Deal stated the following in his veto of the bill:
“House Bill 359, while well-intentioned, creates a parallel and unchecked system to our Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), unintentionally placing children at risk. The Power of Attorney created by HB 359 allows parents and “agents” to go around the well-established confines of legal adoption and/or our child welfare system, granting a power of attorney for a child to an individual, or even a non-profit corporation, with no oversight. The state has dedicated significant resources to DFCS during my time as Governor in order to improve the safety and outcomes of children in foster care. The state should consider all options that help in streamlining the process for a child to be adopted, or placed in a loving home or improved foster care environment; however, creating a parallel system in which DFCS has no oversight runs contrary to the progress the state has made in strengthening our child welfare system.”
Gov. Deal took the opportunity to also issue a call for reform in foster care and adoptions in Georgia:
“In light of the fact that a comprehensive rewrite of the adoption code failed to pass this year, I encourage the Leadership of both chambers, supporters of this legislation, and the child welfare advocacy community to work together over the next year in crafting legislation that continues to strengthen our existing system and streamlines the processes of adoption so that children may reach permanency more quickly. I believe a comprehensive foster care/adoption reform legislative package is in Georgia’s best interests in 2018.”
Bluestein also shared comments from Speaker David Ralston about Gov. Deal’s veto and the need for reform:
“I know Governor Deal did not veto HB 359 without a great deal of deliberation. He did what he thought was in the long-term best interest of foster children – and I respect that.
I never imagined the 2017 session would adjourn without the Senate passing the bipartisan adoption reform measure. The House passed that bill unanimously – twice. Thanks to the work of Rep. Bert Reeves, the House was united in our attempt to help Georgia’s foster children.
I join with Governor Deal in calling for comprehensive foster care and adoption reform in the 2018 session. I guarantee that measure will continue to be a top priority for the House. I am hopeful that our colleagues in the Senate will show some strong leadership, put aside petty politics and do the right thing. Hundreds of foster children awaiting adoption in Georgia deserve no less.”