16 bills proposed to make adoption and child care easier in Tennessee

Posted at 6:13 AM, Feb 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-02 08:16:05-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Republican state lawmakers are proposing legislation to make adoption and child care easier and more affordable in Tennessee.

Senate Speaker Ferrell Haile said as a pro-life lawmaker, he believes it is imperative to protect life beyond the point of birth and strengthen that system to take care of children in Tennessee.

Chairman of the House Republican Caucus Jeremy Faison also showed support for this proposed legislation. He said as an adoptive parent himself, he aims to make Tennessee the most adoption-friendly state in the nation.

So far this legislative session, 16 bills have been proposed on this topic. One would allow non-foster care parents to adopt from the Department of Children Services, prohibit the overturning of adoptions after 6 months, and increase options for pre-birth and post-birth surrenders.

Some of the bills help mothers and parents more generally, such as eliminating the sales tax on baby formula, diapers, and wet wipes.

Another would increase the amount of non-biological children a person can watch without needing to register as a child care facility to help stop childcare deserts across the state.

Some of the proposed bills aim to lessen DCS's workload.

The complete list of related bills being discussed:

  • Adoption and Foster Care Omnibus Bill – comprehensive legislation that would make various changes to adoption and foster care by eliminating red tape. If passed, the legislation would, among many other things, allow non-foster care parents to adopt from DCS, allow more time for adoptive parents to pay for birth related expenses, allow foster parents to be involved in court proceedings, prohibit the overturning of adoptions after 6 months and increase options for pre-birth and post-birth surrenders. / Senate Bill 528
  • Mother’s Tax Cut – would eliminate sales tax on baby formula, diapers and wet wipes. / Senate Bill 529
  • First Lady’s Children’s Trust Fund – would create a long-term funding strategy for organizations in Tennessee providing services to children instead of funding on a one-time, as needed basis. / Senate Bill 530
  • Caseload cap for DCS workers – based on recommendations from an audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, this legislation would change the way caseload caps per DCS caseworkers are calculated from an “average” to “actual” cap of 20 cases per case worker. / Senate Bill 531
  • Best interest of the child – legislation would require DCS to amend their mission statement to include “best interest of the child” as the department’s main goal. / Senate Bill 532
  • Sick Leave Bank / State employees – a proposal would allow state employees with children who have prolonged illnesses to use the state sick leave bank to care for their sick child after they have depleted their personal time. / Senate Bill 533
  • Safe Haven Law – legislation would require DCS to transfer guardianship of an infant to a certified adoption agency if left at a Safe Haven location. It would also allow a court to waive the six-month waiting period to finalize an adoption of a baby who was surrendered under the safe haven law. / Senate Bill 534
  • Abandonment – a measure would revise the definition of abandonment for purposes of terminating parental rights to include circumstances where the parent or guardian fails to visit or support the child for a period of three consecutive months if the child is less than four years of age. / Senate Bill 535
  • Severe Child Abuse – legislation would add offenses that constitute severe child abuse for the purpose of juvenile court and termination of parental rights proceedings. / Senate Bill 536
  • Incarcerated individuals – legislation would lower from 10 to 6 years the amount of time a parent or guardian must be incarcerated as grounds for termination of parental or guardianship rights. / Senate Bill 537
  • Paid FMLA for adoptive parents – a bill would provide 6 weeks paid family medical leave to state employees who are first-time adoptive or foster parents. / Senate Bill 538
  • Neighborhood childcare – legislation would increase the number of non-biological children a person can watch in their home without having to register as a childcare facility. The goal is to start conversations about innovative solutions to the childcare desert in Tennessee. / Senate Bill 537
  • DHS Childcare Improvement Fund – legislation would create a state fund to assist entities seeking to improve or create child care facilities. / Senate Bill 534
  • Unlicensed child placement agencies – legislation seeks to crackdown on unlicensed, out-of-state placement agencies operating in Tennessee that offer quick adoptions for high fees. / Senate Bill 542
  • Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) – to ease the workload for DCS caseworkers, legislation would require DCS to hire GALs to review cases that might need parental rights terminated. / Senate Bill 544
  • Adoption and Foster Care Resolution – a resolution calls on the governor and state agencies to contemplate various issues and ideas to improve adoption and foster care in Tennessee.  Senate Joint Resolution 129