Assembly signs off on slate of bills aiming to speed up adoption process in Wisconsin – Madison.com

The Wisconsin Assembly has approved a series of bills seeking to move up the timeline for adoptions in the state.

Most of the legislation in the package, which came out of a bipartisan adoption task force, cleared the chamber via voice vote. All eight bills are now headed to the Senate.

Backers of the bills said they would make Wisconsin "an adoption friendly state" while cutting down court time in processes to remove children from potentially dangerous homes and getting them more quickly into foster or adoptive care.

The task force's chair, Rep. Barb Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc, said the legislation seeks to prioritize the well-being of children and give them permanency, while aiming to "mitigate the trauma of these fractured families while still respecting the rights of all."

But critics argued some pieces of the legislation would disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income individuals and focused too much on ways to terminate parental rights, among other things.

Democratic Rep. Lisa Subeck, the task force's vice-chair, said while "there's some good" in the package, some of the bills are inconsistent with the value of prioritizing "trying to place children and keep children with biological family members."

One particularly wide-ranging bill would create new grounds for family intervention if a child suffers prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol used by the mother.

The same legislation would also create new grounds for the involuntary termination of parental rights, including if a parent is incarcerated and is likely to continue to be incarcerated during most of the child's adolescent life, among other things.

That language passed on a 61-37 largely party-line vote, though GOP Reps. John Nygren and Shae Sortwell opposed it while Democratic Rep. Steve Doyle supported it.

Other legislation would allow a child's permanency plan to be shared with foster parents and kids that are 12 or older; and make it possible to initiate proceedings to terminate parental rights within a Children in Need of Protection or Service (CHIPS) case.

Under the CHIPS process, children found to be in need of protection or services by a court may be removed from their homes and parents would need to meet certain conditions set by the court to be reunified with their child.

Another bill would expand eligibility for adoption assistance from the Department of Children and Families.

Currently, DCF can give payments to adoptive parents who take in a child who's at least 10 and has two other siblings that are being placed together. The bill would lower the age to 7 and extend assistance for two or more siblings that must be placed in the same home.

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Assembly signs off on slate of bills aiming to speed up adoption process in Wisconsin - Madison.com

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