Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed foster children to be adopted while their birth parents were still fighting to keep them.
The veto came after Brewer urged lawmakers to focus on improving the quality of life of Arizona’s foster children during the 2013 legislation session that ended Friday.
Brewer said in a veto letter that while she appreciated the bill’s intent, she was uncomfortable with the impact House Bill 2144 could have on children. She noted that there have been at least 18 successful appeals of parental rights terminations in Maricopa and Pima counties alone in the last five years. She also slammed a provision in the bill that would have kept caseworkers from disclosing information about an adoption hearing, noting that it could prevent necessary disclosures and was overly restrictive.
Among the bill’s many provisions, it would have allowed adoptions during the appeals process for a foster child who had been in the state’s care for at least 15 months and had been living with the prospective adoptive parents for at least six months. The bill received bipartisan support from the Republican-controlled Legislature, but Brewer said it was too flawed.
“I am wary of encouraging courts to grant a petition to adopt when an appeal to the termination of parental rights is pending,” Brewer said. “While I appreciate the intent behind this legislation, I am uncomfortable with the impact these provisions may have upon child well-being in this state.”
The bill sought to make a number of other changes, including a provision that would have allowed a foster parent to take in extra children if siblings were involved or if the child had previously resided in the home.
Arizona’s Child Protective Services has seen a 32 percent increase in abuse reports since 2009, and the number of children in out-of-home care has increased by 40 percent. The agency saw significant staffing cuts during the recession.
Roughly 14,000 children are under state supervision, either in foster care, living with relatives or in group homes.