Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday signed into law a bill to make it easier for families to adopt children in Georgia.
The measure — a priority for Georgia lawmakers this year — makes far-reaching changes to the state’s adoption process.
Georgia’s adoption laws were so burdensome that many parents traveled to neighboring states to find children.
“The bottom line is that it’s going to speed up the process for adopting in Georgia,” Deal said after signing the legislation, House Bill 159. “For far too long, we have been behind the national average in terms of the time it takes to finalize an adoption.”
Surrounded by dozens of state legislators as he signed the bill, Deal said it’s a “significant step forward” for the state.
The legislation reduces adoption waiting times, legalizes reimbursing birth mothers for their expensesin private adoptions, bans middlemen who profit from arranging adoptions and simplifies out-of-state adoptions.
The adoption measure became the source of a major fight at the Georgia Capitol last year over a provision that would have allowed religious adoption agencies to reject gay couples seeking to adopt foster children.
The bill only advanced this year after senators agreed to remove the religious language. The Senate voted last month to pass separate legislation, Senate Bill 375, that would ensure taxpayer-funded adoption agencies can turn away same-sex parents. That bill is now pending in the House.
But the broader adoption overhaul is now complete.
“With the signing of this bill into law, we are giving children, including the 13,500 children in foster care, renewed hope for a forever family,” Deal said.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Bert Reeves, said that after working to pass the adoption bill, he and his wife are considering adopting or fostering a child.