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Lawmaker welcomes foster child, waits for adoption

A state senator who has long wanted to adopt a child out of the state’s foster care system finally welcomed her family’s newest member on Sunday — a 14-month old baby girl named Savannah.

Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-16, said she first laid eyes on the baby girl on Friday. 

“Immediately that was it,” she said, “she was ours.”

The senator and her husband have yet to officially adopt Savannah.

That process will start sometime late in February, she said.

The reason the baby girl is already with them is that she and her husband are also certified foster parents, she said.

“This child has fit in right with our life. It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit for our family. (She) sleeps good, eats good, and does all that great stuff,” Landrum Taylor said.

Late last year, the Valley senator lamented that the adoption process is too long and is discouraging to potential adoptive parents. She and her husband, for example, have been certified as eligible to adopt a child for over a year and are still waiting.

“Still no child,” she said. “It really is challenging.

There were 9,902 children in out-of-home care in Arizona as of March 2006, according to the state Department of Economic Security. Of this number, nearly half are more than 9 years old.

More than 3,400 of these children were placed with relatives.

Of the total number, about half had goals to return to their families. But some 2,345 wait for adoption, DES records showed.

Her experience prompted Landrum Taylor to look into the possibility of introducing legislation to streamline that process and drastically cut the waiting time.

Of particular interest to Landrum Taylor is the time it takes to sever parental rights, an emotionally and legally-complex undertaking.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Security said it generally takes about 15 months from the time a child is placed under foster care before moves are made to sever a parental right. The steps to sever this right are spelled out in statute and the overriding emphasis is placed on trying to reunify a child to his or her biological family.

“If the parent hasn’t made one iota of a move within six months, the severance process needs to start sooner,” she said, adding, “we can’t have them (children) waiting in the system all this time.”

Landrum Taylor said on a “fast track,” it will likely take about nine months to officially adopt the baby girl, who has been within the foster care system since she was three months old. That assumes no complication arises, she said.

But for now at least, the long wait is over.

“(She’s just) happy as can be. It just couldn’t be any better,” the senator said.

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