By J. Robert White
Georgia Baptist Mission Board
Public Affairs Representative
Georgia Baptist Mission Board
Rep. Bert Reeves is to be commended for his work to revise Georgia’s adoption law. There have not been substantial changes to this law in about 30 years. Rep. Reeves has worked on this legislation for over 2 years. Further, we appreciate the diligent work of the Georgia House on the adoption law.
We do also appreciate the Georgia Senate taking extra time to fully understand the House changes to the adoption bill (HB 159). Earlier this month, the Senate wisely removed a House provision that would have allowed attorneys to possibly broker payments to pregnant women in order to obtain babies for their clients. The House voted to add it back.
According to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bill Cowsert, “(L)iving expenses for a birth mother in the adoption process can be paid only by a state-regulated adoption agency. There is a requirement that the agency submit a financial disclosure with the court listing all expenditures paid to or on behalf of the mother. These expenses must be approved by the judge handling the adoption to assure that they do not constitute an illegal inducement. Likewise, the adoption agencies are audited yearly to ensure the expenses are necessary and reasonable.”
The House wants to open up the law so that attorneys are able to broker payments to the pregnant woman. State law prohibits paying inducements to a mother to part with her children. House amendments would explicitly allow attorneys to make payments for this purpose without legally being considered an “inducement.” This could be problematic. Attorneys are not subject to the same restrictions and regulations as adoption agencies. Adoption agencies have as their mission the welfare of the child. Attorneys typically serve the interest of their clients. Allowing attorneys to pay the mother could lead to the possibility of competitions or bidding wars that could in turn drive up the cost of adoption.
The Senate is wisely supporting current Georgia law (Georgia Code 19-8-24) which makes it illegal to offer inducement to parents to part with their children. There should be very limited exceptions to this rule. The House amendment weakens this provision.
There are also concerns that the House, while it has been unwilling to adopt protections for faith based adoption agencies, is now enacting provisions that allow attorneys to “compete” against them.
It is important that those parties who have the best interest of the child always be at the forefront of the adoption process. It is also important that there is a willingness of the state to always keep adoption affordable for all Georgians. We don’t want to do anything that takes adoption out of reach for working class families in our state.
Therefore, we encourage the House and the Senate leadership to seek to maintain the integrity of the adoption process and resist changes to the adoption law that will weaken faith based adoption agencies and raise the cost of adoptions for all Georgians.