House adoption workgroup recommends a registry to protect father’s rights

By Tom Troth

Throughout the summer and fall, the House of Representatives workgroup on adoptions in the Kentucky General Assembly has been meeting in order to provide recommendations for the streamlining of the adoption and foster care process in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The first recommendation of the workgroup was that a Putative Father Registry be established under Kentucky law. Similar legislation has been filed in previous legislative sessions, but the bills have never passed the General Assembly. This legislation attempts to bring finality to the rights of fathers in termination of parental rights/adoption procedures, thereby reducing unnecessary delays or interruptions in the adoption procedures while also protecting the rights of “putative fathers.”

While the rights of a mother of a child born out of wedlock are apparent, easily established and dealt with, the rights of a father are not so easily discerned, especially when the father of the child often is not known. In the case of an unknown father, the right of the mother could be terminated, but the father’s rights may never have been properly adjudicated, leaving open the possibility of a father coming back even years later to claim paternity and custody of a child that has been raised for years in the loving home of adoptive parents. In this scenario, the parental rights of the biological father may be deemed paramount unless the father is determined unfit by the court.

One way to protect a father’s rights with regard to the child, while also preventing unnecessary delays or interruptions in a child’s adoptions proceedings, is through the creation of a Putative Father Registry. According to testimony at the House working group on adoption/foster care, there are between 20 and 25 states that have enacted a Putative Father Registry, including many states surrounding Kentucky, such as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee.

The registry requires that if a man has sexual relations with a woman who is not his wife, thus creating the potential for the birth of a child, the “putative father” has a responsibility to register that fact in a confidential fashion with the state. If he registers with the state within the timeframe specified in the statute, which could be set, for example, as within 30 days after the birth of the child, then he has the right to have notice of any procedure to terminate the rights of the parent as a prelude to adoption. If registered, he will receive notice and can follow the necessary legal channels to object or agree to the termination.

However, if the putative father’s name, is not placed on the Putative Father Registry, then he has no right to object to the termination, and subsequent adoption of the child. This would provide greater stability for biological mother of the child and for the adoptive parents, knowing that the biological father, who perhaps has shown no interest in the child cannot, years later, claim paternity and the right to parent the child. Registration as a putative father would be completely confidential and will have the effect of protecting the biological father’s rights as well.

A putative father may place himself on the registry. The following additional individuals may also place the name of a putative father on the registry; the mother, child, a party in a pending adoption, an attorney of record in a pending adoption, a child-placing agency or a court overseeing an adoption.

Additional recommendations by House Workgroup on adoption:

On December 19, 2017, the House of Representatives Workgroup on Adoptions in the Kentucky General Assembly submitted their final recommendations for administrative and legislative changes to the adoption/foster care process. The goal of these recommendations is to streamline the process, thereby making Kentucky a more adoption and foster family friendly state. Several recommendations came out of the monthly hearings of the work group.

  • The first recommendation which was discussed in a previous post was the creation of a PUTATIVE FATHER REGISTRY, which will help protect the rights of fathers, mothers, as well as adoptive parents in an adoption/foster care proceeding.
  • A STANDARDIZED BUT UPDATED FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTION HOME STUDY SHOULD BE USED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY BASED SERVICES (DCBS) AS WELL AS INDEPENDENT FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTION AGENCIES. There was a great deal of testimony before the House Work Group concerning the duplication of effort and delay caused by utilizing multiple state and private home studies.

The creation of a standardized home study would help eliminate duplication and should remain effective for an appropriate length of time. The study could be updated if needed, but not require multiple home studies be completed prior to final adoption.

  • EDUCATION OF BIRTHMOTHERS ABOUT ADOPTION OPTIONS IS CRITICAL. Healthcare providers, and particularly OB-GYNs are in a unique position to provide mothers with options for their baby’s care, including providing important adoption information. It is believed that widespread adoption education would assist in preventing newborns from being unnecessarily placed in state custody while they await placement.
  • COMPREHENSIVE TIMELINES FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS SHOULD BE LEGISLATIVELY ESTABLISHED. One of the areas of concern raised by foster and adoptive parents in Work Group hearings was the seemingly unreasonable delays that occur in the legal and administrative process that ultimately results in Termination of Parent Rights (TPR) as a precursor to adoption.

It was recommended by the Work Group that a legislative timeline be enacted in consultation with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Administrative Office of the Courts in order to prevent delays in the proceedings that result in a child’s permanent placement. Failure to establish hard and fast end dates leave children in limbo when it comes to placement.

A comprehensive TPR time line will improve efficiency of the system and allow children and families to set realistic expectations about their family’s future.

  • CONTRACTS BETWEEN THE STATE (DCBS) AND PRIVATE FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTION AGENCIES SHOULD BE BASED ON PERFORMANCE. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services should establish a clear and consistent review methodology for assessing performance of its contracted foster care and adoption agencies. DCBS must ensure that each child and foster and adoptive family are treated with the same level of care as their peers.
  • THE ROLE OF THE OMBUDSMAN MUST BE STRENGTHENED. Foster parents and stakeholders should be enabled to file grievances against DCBS employees or contractors and should be authorized to report other known issues regarding their care or the system as a whole, so complaints can be resolved and the system as a whole improved.

By empowering the ombudsman in this way, foster parents can avoid the fear of retaliation from reporting deficiencies in state worker performance or other issues. Likewise, a record of trends regarding complaints may be kept. The ombudsman can act upon grievances and also respond to requests it receives from the legislative and executive branches in order to assure the efficient management of these type of issues.

  • ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED. The latest technology should be provided to DCBS social workers to cut down substantially or even eliminate the backlog of paperwork that must be completed in developing home studies and other documents relating to the Foster Care/Adoption process.

The use of tablets or laptops with ability to sync with the DCBS case file database would enable social workers to update data as needed between court delays or home visits. Use of technology could assist social workers in responding to foster parents, children, and birth parents without unreasonable delays.

  • DCBS WORKERS SHOULD BE MORE EFFECTIVELY RECRUITED AND RETAINED. Social workers serve under emotionally trying and sometimes dangerous circumstances. Social workers should be afforded suitable opportunities to receive benefits such as respite leave and hazardous duty pay. The possibility of providing social worker students with tuition credits or scholarships should also be explored.

Career advancement should be encouraged as well as succession planning and mentoring utilized where appropriate.

  • THE RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE PROGRAM REVIEW AND INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE’S “KENTUCKY FOSTER CARE SYSTEM” REPORT SHOULD BE MADE A PART OF THE WORK GROUPS RECOMMENDATIONS. The recommendations of the Program Review and Investigations Committee are not included in this summary, but should be reviewed separately.
  • THE ROLE OF THE CITIZEN’S FOSTER CARE REVIEW BOARD SHOULD BE EXPANDED. In 1982, a statutory Citizen Foster Care Review Board was created for each child in state custody by court order. Volunteers to this Board are appointed by the Chief Family Court or District Court Judge to perform reviews around the state. In FY 2016, 2,222 meetings were held, and 20,869 reviews on 11,287 children in out-of-home care were conducted.

The Citizen Foster Care Review Board provides invaluable assistance by advising judges on the cases of children on their dockets. It is believed that the General Assembly would benefit from the Board’s regular reporting of findings and from testimony on trends in the state’s out-of-home youth population.

  • A STATUTORY COMMITTEE THAT FOCUSES ON CHILD WELFARE ISSUES SHOULD BE CREATED. Because of the considerable issues facing Kentucky’s youth, it is believed the General Assembly should consider the creation of a permanent statutory committees to deal exclusively with child welfare issues.

The committee would meet regularly throughout the year, and provide the General Assembly with information on issues facing the Commonwealth’s young people. This statutory committee would also provide a platform for stakeholders such as foster and adoptive parents, Cabinet for Health and Family Services officials, health care providers and advocacy groups to express issues and concerns regarding real situations in the field.

  • SERVICE OF PROCESS AND FILING REQUIREMENTS CONCERNING DNA CASES SHOULD EASED. Currently, an emergency custody order may only be issued in the county where a child is found. Amending KRS 610.010 to allow these emergency orders to also be issued in the county where the child lives would better address the needs of our increasingly mobile society and prevent instances of parents removing a child from their home county to avoid emergency removal of a child.

Current service of process rules such as the service of summons statutes, KRS 610.040, 620.070, FCRPP Rule 188, as well as warning order attorney rules, create delays in legal processes intended to immediately aid a child in harm’s way. Service of process rules should be made as efficient as practicable to ensure the immediate safety of a child at risk.

  • FAMILY PRESERVATION AND REUNIFICATION PROGRAMS AND INTENSIVE IN-HOME SERVICES SHOULD BE EXPANDED. The programs mentioned in this paragraph are designed to assist families in developing better parenting skills, obtaining substance abuse treatment, and attaining other necessary resources to maintain the wellness of the family unit and avoid out-of-home care where possible. When appropriate, these programs benefit Kentucky families, are often in the best interest of the child and more effectively use state resources than out-of-home care.
  • CHILDCARE NEEDS IN KENTUCKY’S WORKFORCE SHOULD BE ADDRESSED. In order to work every day, many Kentuckians are forced to find care outside the home for children not yet enrolled in K-12 schools. Additionally, research shows that children who are introduced to appropriate care and education from birth to five years of age are more school-ready and able to find higher wage employment later in life than those whose first introduction is at the kindergarten level. Early education and child care are also linked to better health outcomes, lower crime rates, and more effective public schools.

To assure that Kentuckians can afford to work, and grow our Commonwealth’s economy, while promoting early education prior to kindergarten, the adoption work group recommended that the state more fully develop and align its child care and early education resources and requirements.

If there are any questions about the recommendations of the House of Representatives Adoption Work Group, or if additional information is needed, please contact Tom Troth, Legislative Agent, Kentucky Baptist Convention, at 502-330-5024, or e-mail at [email protected].


This entry was posted in Adoption, Family, Foster Care, Government. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>