When you foster a child, you often develop an emotional bond with them. Good foster parents are often hard to come by as a foster child. Therefore, when they find a place that is comfortable, nurturing, and familial— both the parents and the child will likely decide to make the arrangement more permanent. Considering adoption of your foster children is admirable, yet complex. When it comes to the laws involved, adoption of foster children can be quite difficult. One recent South Carolina case, SCDSS vs. Boulware, has become a turning point for laws considering the adoption of foster children.
Considering Adoption of Foster Children? Understand the Laws
The Facts of the Case
In this case, a minor was placed into emergency protective custody after police discovered the child was living with the parents outside a meth lab. They also found that the child was sunburned, had insect bites, severe diaper rash, and tested positive for meth, cocaine, and marijuana.
DSS immediately placed the child into a foster home with Edward and Tammy Dalsing. At first, the family court ordered for the child to return to the parents after they completed parenting and substance abuse classes. However, the court soon found that the parents weren’t attending these classes. Furthermore, they had been arrested on possession of meth.
Termination of Parental Rights
The court quite obviously terminated the parental rights (TPR) for the child’s biological parents. Then, DSS reached an agreement to place the child with an aunt and uncle while the parents finished their treatment plan. The Dalsings then filed for a private TPR and adoption action of the child.
The family court terminated the parental rights of the parents, but also dismissed the Dalsings’ adoption action. The court argued that they did not have standing to pursue a private adoption of a child in DSS custody. They granted custody to DSS. The court of appeals affirmed this decision and the case went to the SC Supreme Court.
The Case goes to Supreme Court
The SC Supreme Court stated that the Dalsings actually did have standing to pursue a private adoption action. They cited S.C. Code § 63-9-60(A)(1) which allows any SC resident to petition the court to adopt a child, but disallows it when DSS has already placed the child for adoption. The Dalsings argued that they were, in fact, participating in accordance with this law.
Their grounds were that DSS had yet to place the child up for adoption when the Dalsings filed their TPR petition. DSS argued that the word “placed” in the statute refers to when the child is first placed in DSS’s custody. However, the court stated that this term actually refers to the selection of the adoption family.
Thus, in accordance with the statute, DSS had not yet placed the child for adoption. The court reversed the decision and remanded it back to the family court.
Adopting your Foster Child
The SC Supreme Court’s decision in Boulware loosens the limitation set for foster parents seeking to adopt a child. Specifically, regarding the meaning of the word “placed” in the statute. Therefore, if you’re considering adoption of your foster child, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the laws as you pursue the action. The best way to do so, is to find a family attorney to aid you in understanding the laws, and taking the necessary steps. We wish you luck in this endeavor, and offer our support if you might need it. No child deserves to be left behind, especially by the actions of their parents. What you’re doing is a fantastic thing. While it may be difficult, nothing worth it is ever easy…