FRANKFORT, Ky. – House Speaker Jeff Hoover appointed an eight-member, bipartisan group on Wednesday charged with streamlining Kentucky's adoption process.
The Adoption Work Group, comprised of five Republicans and three Democrats, will work over the interim and present draft legislation in time for the 2018 Legislative Session next January.
"The adoption system and the children who depend on it have not received the attention they deserve," said Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, Ky.
Of the children eligible for adoption in Kentucky's foster care system, Hoover said, most must wait about a year and a half to be placed in a permanent home. And even then, only one out of four are eventually adopted into families.
"The question I’ve asked the members is, 'Could the number go higher if the process was streamlined?'” Hoover said.
The speaker suggested the group not only streamline but make the adoption process easier to understand, perhaps creating a simple step-by-step guide for potential adoptive parents.
House Majority Caucus Chair David Meade, R-Stanford, an adoptive parent himself, will lead the group.
“We also want to make sure we are properly helping the birth mothers who are placing their children up for adoption," said Meade, "to ensure that we are not creating a burden on them in any way.”
Meade said it took about three years to finalized the adoption of his daughter Cara. He also mentioned the high costs associated with adoption.
“While it varies depending on the type of adoption, it can range from $10,000 to $30,000. I want to lower that,” Meade said.
Adoption Work Group Co-Chair Joni Jenkins, a Democrat representative from Shively, said she worked with children exiting foster care for about five years.
“I remember one young lady I worked with who overcame all the challenges and barriers and was ready to graduate. She started to cry, saying ‘I don’t have any family to watch me get my diploma,'" said Jenkins. "We can do better than that as a state.”
Jenkins hopes the group can help create strong families in Kentucky.
Other members of the Adoption Work Group are Reps. Robert Benvenuti (R-Lexington), Jeff Donohue (D-Louisville), Derrick Graham (D-Frankfort), Donna Mayfield (R-Winchester), Melinda Prunty (R-Belton) and Russell Webber (R-Shepherdsville).
Hoover says he expects the work group to meet up to a half dozen times this year, and present recommendations for draft legislation by December first.
Governor Matt Bevin, who has four adoptive children, says he is close to announcing a person in his office to also work on streamlining the adoption and foster care system in Kentucky. He says that person is still working on the transition from his current job, and will report directly to him.