Adopting a child can be a complicated and even expensive process. However, new laws aim to facilitate the adoption of a child in Georgia, especially children in foster care.

GPB’s Rikki Klaus joined Rickey Bevington, host of All Things Considered, to explain the changes.

Rickey Bevington: First, tell me, to start, how many children are there in the care system in Georgia?

Rikki Klaus: There are currently more than 10,000 children in state care. And that might sound like a lot, but it’s actually the lowest number since 2015. The decline in children in government care began in 2018 when lawmakers passed a revision of the Adoption Code that made it easier for families in Georgia to bring children in To adopt Georgia. So the new laws aim to continue this dynamic.

Rickey Bevington: And Governor Kemp recently signed six adoption and foster care laws. How do you change things?

Rikki Klaus: First, they will make adoption more affordable for some families. Second, they make college easier for children who have been part of the care system.

Rickey Bevington: And we’ll talk about it in a moment, but first: Is adoption itself – the process – becoming more affordable?

Rikki Klaus: Yes for some. Families adopting a foster child already have a $ 2,000 annual tax credit. Well that will triple to $ 6,000 a year. Families can apply for this credit for five years, and they can do so any year during that period.

Deborah Burrus is the director of the adoption program in the Georgian Department of Family and Child Services. She says extra money will be a real benefit for families.

Deborah Burrus: “There have been some issues with how financially they will be able to meet the ongoing needs of the children, so I think we can provide additional resources for them anytime you know, something that will take away some of the stress from the parents, then we definitely want to do that. ”

Rickey Bevington: Does this tax credit mean that each family that adopts a foster child will receive an additional $ 6,000?

Rikki Klaus: No it doesn’t. To get the loan, you must first owe the state at least $ 6,000 in income taxes. That’s pretty comfortably mid-range before you can take the entire tax credit.

Rickey Bevington: However, it’s still a strong incentive.

Rikki Klaus: It could be. DFCS Director Tom Rawlings says it is part of an effort to bring forever homes to children in the care system, who may have lived with many different families.

Tom Rawlings: “And also as you become a young adult, to really get you on your way to becoming the person you should be, to receive your education, to develop your professional skills, and to become independent.”

Rikki Klaus: Which is what every parent wants.

Rickey Bevington: So let’s go back to college. You said there is help in the care system for children who want to leave?

Rikki Klaus: Absolutely. Another law waives tuition and fees within the University and Technical College systems of Georgia for young people who have either completed the state care system or have been adopted through state funding. So this law could be a real game changer for the hundreds of people Tom Rawlings says the state already knows they qualify for.

Tom Rawlings: “We have about 700-800 people in our extended care system between the ages of 18 and 21. This is our independent life program and they can benefit from it.”

Rickey Bevington: Rikki, there are thousands of adoptive families in Georgia. What do you say about these changes?

Rikki Klaus: Mae Wright-Tremble and Dwayne Tremble live in Gwinnett County. They adopted their son from Georgia’s foster care system last June. They say they are grateful.

Dwayne Tremble: “We had a lot of love to give. We never had our own children. This was an opportunity to give love to someone else who needed them.”

Rikki Klaus: Their son Javontae is now 13 years old. And so now he can look forward to an easier road to college in a few years.

Dwayne Tremble: “Some kids might – can’t go to school because they don’t have the money. And now this – has the opportunity to go now. So it’s a great thing.”

Rickey Bevington: So we’ve covered the financial benefits. What else do these laws do?

Rikki Klaus: Rickey, you’re bringing the age of adoptive parents down from 25 to 21. And the idea is to make it easier for young adults to adopt their younger siblings. They also streamline some of the steps a family takes to adopt a child. Also, the appointed board of directors advising the state office of the child advocate will see both a foster parent and someone who was once a child in the foster system join its ranks.

Rickey Bevington: What legislative support did these bills get on the way to the governor’s desk?

Rikki Klaus: Adoption reform was a priority for Governor Kemp. He’s a Republican, of course. So, the support for these bills? By and large, non-partisan. Kemp said that bringing children into loving homes should never be partial. And as for these adoption laws, it was not.

Rickey Bevington: When will the changes take effect?

Rikki Klaus: From July 1st.

Rickey Bevington: Rikki Klaus from GPB. Thanks, Rikki.

Rikki Klaus: You’re welcome, Rickey!