Fos­ter chil­dren once again pawns in game of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing

Calhoun Times - - OBITUARIES - Dick Yar­brough

I have a great in­ter­est in and a lit­tle walkingaround knowl­edge of the po­lit­i­cal process be­cause I have spent a good part of my adult life deal­ing with the sub­ject.

I also pro­duce this weekly screed that runs from one end of the state (LaFayette) to the other (Folk­ston) and a lot of places in be­tween. I haven’t run the num­bers in a while, but I sus­pect I re­main the most widely cir­cu­lated colum­nist in the state. If not, I am pretty darned close.

De­spite these two in­ter­est­ing fac­toids, I am pretty much out-of-sight and out-of-mind with a lot of our in­trepid pub­lic ser­vants un­der the Gold Dome (ex­cept the re­ally as­tute ones). That is be­cause I don’t spend a lot of time at the Capi­tol. That is a good thing for you.

Be­ing at arm’s length gives me a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive as to what is go­ing on un­der the Gold Dome, which brings me to my sub­ject of the week: Up­dat­ing Ge­or­gia’s an­ti­quated adop­tion laws. Once again this ses­sion, the issue is be­ing held hostage by the state Se­nate and, in my opin­ion, much of that is due to the fact that this is an elec­tion year and some of the prin­ci­pal play­ers are run­ning for higher of­fice.

There is no ques­tion the state code needs up­dat­ing. The last up­date was in 1990, due mainly to the ef­forts of a state sen­a­tor by the name of Nathan Deal. To­day, the av­er­age time for fos­ter care adop­tion in Ge­or­gia is more than two-and-a- half years, or more than twice the time na­tion­ally.

Last year, a com­pre­hen­sive adop­tion bill, spon­sored by Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Cobb County, with in­put from the Ge­or­gia Coun­cil of Adop­tion Lawyers, the state Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Chil­dren Ser­vices, the Coun­cil of Su­pe­rior Court Judges and a num­ber of adop­tion agen­cies was sab­o­taged late in the leg­isla­tive ses­sion by a group of state sen­a­tors, led by state Sen. Wil­liam Ligon, R-Brunswick, in a clumsy po­lit­i­cal ef­fort to en­sure mis­sion-based adop­tion agen­cies did not have to place chil­dren with same­sex par­ents.

I said at the time and I say again, if this mat­ter was of such con­cern to Ligon and oth­ers, it could have been ad­dressed ear­lier in the ses­sion, in­stead of sneaked in at the last minute.

Fast-for­ward to this year. The same bill made its way through the House and when it got to the Se­nate, an­other bill, HB 359 was at­tached to it, a mea­sure that among other things, gives a par­ent the power of at­tor­ney to trans­fer their child to a fam­ily mem­ber or a faith­based agency for a pe­riod not to ex­ceed a year. Nice in con­cept maybe, but the prob­lem is that this bill was ve­toed last year by Gov. Deal, who called it an “unchecked sys­tem” that put chil­dren at risk. What is to say he won’t veto it again this year?

The ef­fort this year to at­tach a pre­vi­ously ve­toed bill onto the House bill is be­ing pushed by Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle, who to most po­lit­i­cal ob­servers, in­clud­ing me, is the lead horse in the race to re­place Deal. I like Casey Ca­gle per­son­ally, but I don’t like what he is do­ing.

Lest I be mis­un­der­stood, write this down: I have less prob­lem with his pro­posal than I do with his tim­ing. He and his col­leagues in the Se­nate have had a year to work this issue out with the House, as Gov. Deal had sug­gested they do in his veto mes­sage. At worst, Ca­gle could have in­tro­duced a sep­a­rate mea­sure to deal with his con­cerns while the state got its an­ti­quated adop­tion code up­dated. Why wait un­til now and at­tach a po­ten­tially toxic mea­sure to the House adop­tion bill? It’s the elec­tions, stupid. Time to play up to your base. In this case, the “faith-based” crowd.

Ca­gle as­serts the Se­nate is work­ing on lan­guage mod­i­fi­ca­tions that will as­suage Gov. Deal’s con­cerns. I am told that that ef­fort isn’t as far along as Ca­gle claims. But, does it mat­ter? If the gov­er­nor again ve­toes the bill and that in turn scut­tles the up­date of the adop­tion code, Ca­gle can put the blame on the gov­er­nor while tak­ing credit for giv­ing it the old col­lege try.

Oh, and the 13,000 fos­ter kids in Ge­or­gia await­ing adop­tion? Once again, they are pawns in a game of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing. You don’t have to spend a lot of time at the Gold Dome to un­der­stand that. What a pity.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­yarbrough. com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139 or on Face­book at www.face­book. com/dick­yarb.

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