Legislation designed to reduce mandatory training hours for experienced foster families has passed the Georgia Senate.
Currently, every family is required to undergo 15 hours of training per year if they want to foster a child. The bill would allow the Division of Family and Children Services to determine how much training experienced families would need.
Republican state Sen. Matt Brass, the bill’s sponsor, said it would allow for more short-term and long-term care for the approximately 12,000 children in the state’s foster care program.
“Let’s get more families involved, let’s get more families that want to be respite families, and then maybe that’ll lead to more families that want to be foster families. And then the ultimate goal is maybe that will lead to more adoptions,” Brass said.
The legislation, Senate Bill 335, leaves it up to the Division of Family and Children Services to determine what qualifies as “experienced” family and exactly how much training those families would need.
That concerned Democratic state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, who cast the lone “no” vote.
“I have great admiration for the work our foster care parents and caseworkers do, but I’m troubled that this legislation would remove a requirement that ensures all foster parents receive adequate training,” Karinshak said. “I’m fully supportive of the intent behind this measure, and hope that the House will fix this issue so that our foster children are not endangered by inadequately trained foster parents.”
Improving the foster care system has been listed as one of the top priorities of both Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Gov. Brian Kemp.
“I think you’ll continue to see additional efforts [going] forward for ways for us to modernize and really put foster kids and the families around them in that support system around them really in position to succeed,” Duncan said shortly after the vote.
“There is an attitude of support, bi-partisan support, all over this building.”
Duncan did not take a position on a controversial bill introduced by Republican Sen. Marty Harbin, that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse placement to homes if there was a conflicting religious belief. The lieutenant governor said he was awaiting a committee report on that legislation.