Politics

Parental Custody Rights Could Be Waived More Easily Under New Bill

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, speaks in support of  a bill she says would help parents more quickly transfer temporary custody of their children to other Georgia adults.
Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, speaks in support of a bill she says would help parents more quickly transfer temporary custody of their children to other Georgia adults.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

It could soon be easier for parents to give up temporary custody of their children to another adult. That’s as a result of a bill passed by the Georgia Senate on Tuesday.

Right now, parents need to go court to grant temporary custody of their children to someone else. Under the bill approved by the Senate, they would only have to sign a written power of attorney.

That would allow another Georgia adult to care for their children for up to a year at a time. Bill sponsor Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, says it would help children and struggling families. She says it would give parents with difficult life circumstances the ability to quickly transfer parental authority without undergoing a lengthy court process.

“The whole purpose of this bill is to stem the tide of the wave of kids that go into the foster care system, because often times the system that you’re putting them into is not much better than the system they came from,” Unterman says.

It would also allow military families on active duty to waive their parental rights for more than a year.

But opponents of the bill worry it doesn’t do enough to protect children, because it doesn’t require background checks for those being granted temporary custody.

“We have too many tragedies already with children who have been abused, children in DFCS care, and other children. I don’t want to do anything to put children more at risk,” Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, says. 

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Marietta, raised similar concerns,

“I don’t think there’s sufficient protections in the bill if a parent were to place a child with someone who is unfit. My understanding of the bill is they simply execute the power of attorney and they are done. There’s no judicial review, there’s no third party ensuring that it’s in the best interest of the child,” says McKoon.

But McKoon says he thinks the bill can be fixed before state lawmakers decide if it will gain final passage.

The bill prohibits Senators from granting temporary custody in an attempt to circumvent investigations by the state’s Division of Family and Children Services.

Senators approved the bill 43 to 10. The bill now heads to the Georgia House.