Jindal signs bill aimed at easing adoption rules

Community leaders and legislators rappelled off the roof of a 24-story building in downtown Baton Rouge on Friday to bring attention to the number of children trapped in the state’s foster care system. Meanwhile, Gov. Bobby Jindal was inside signing a bill to make it easier to adopt those children.

Senate Bill 220, called the Louisiana Has Faith in Families Act, will help pay adoption costs for families, shorten the wait time for adoption procedures and continue child care subsidy payments to families who adopt their foster children, even if the family leaves Louisiana.

“By signing this bill into law we’ll be sending a clear message to families across Louisiana that we support them in their adoption efforts,” Jindal said. “By encouraging and assisting with adoption efforts for families across the state, we go a long way toward ensuring that our next generation is provided with the stable and loving environment they need.”

State officials say nearly 500 children in foster care are “adoption-ready,” meaning they are available to be placed in a permanent home.

SB220, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and state Sen. Rick Ward, D-Port Allen, puts into state law existing regulations that provide for assistance with educational needs for adopted children, subsidies to assist families with costs and expedited judicial processes in proceedings.

The state also will subsidize the adoption of children with special needs, including paying maintenance costs, medical and surgical costs and other items associated with the care, training or educational needs of the child.

“The bottom line is this: By streamlining the process and offering incentives and support services for prospective parents and foster children alike we can make sure that our kids find homes as quickly as possible,” Jindal said.

The “Over the Edge for Adoption” rappelling event at the Baton Rouge office building was organized by the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative, faith-based nonprofit group that has a goal of getting 100 Louisiana children adopted by the end of the year. LSU football coach Les Miles was one of the celebrities to go over the edge during the two-day event.

The Rev. Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, said the roof jumps were designed to bring attention to the children who are trapped in foster care.

“We think that it’s criminal that they wait months, sometimes even years to be matched to a family,” he said. The bill signing “brings us one step closer to uniting precious children to a forever family.”