Changes went into effect Wednesday to the previously legal practice of giving away one’s adopted children to non-relatives without state involvement. The practice known as rehoming is now a felony.
The measure, sponsored by State Representative David Meeks (R-Greenbrier) was passed in the final days of the 2015 regular session of the Arkansas Legislature. The legislation followed reports in the Arkansas Times of Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) rehoming his daughters to a family friend and employee who was later convicted of raping multiple minors.
Democratic Representative Greg Leding of Fayetteville backed a companion bill to Meek's legislation intended to assist families with post-adoption services. The provision is an effort to mitigate the pressures that at times have contributed to rehoming.
“It requires DHS to develop a framework, guidelines to try to help parents and children that might find themselves in an unfortunate situation where there might need to be some kind of intervention,” Leding said.
The act also increases efforts to verify state funds and checks related to adoption are going to the correct people. Leding said there is an appetite in Legislature to take up additional measures related to the Department of Human Services and child welfare, especially following a report released through Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office last week.
“Every legislator sees this issue as being an important one. I was the first one to act this past year and certainly I plan to stay on top of this issue.” Leding credited the governor with some leadership as well, “I am glad the governor brought in outside help to do an evaluation.”
The report contains 11 recommendations for improving DHS and the state’s child welfare system. Among them is increasing the number of case workers by 200, allocating an additional $8 million, and improving the process for approving foster parents.