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Posted by: Journal News on Jul 1, 2018

Journal Issue Date: Jul 2018

Journal Name: July 2018 - Vol. 54, No. 7

In 2016, Rep. Mike Carter, a Chattanooga attorney and chairman of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, attended an out-of-state conference where he was introduced to a data-driven computer application designed to promote placement stability and permanency for children in foster care by matching children and families based on markers of compatibility. This application was designed to bring the same compatibility matching that has been widely successful in the United States through programs such as eHarmony, to the foster care system [The application, named Family Match, has been developed by Adoption-Share Inc., a Georgia 501(c)(3) corporation.]

It is an established fact that approximately two-thirds of children in foster care for more than one year will experience three or more failed placements [Noonan et al., 2009], and that each disruption dramatically increases the risk of that child achieving poor outcomes such as incarceration, dropping out of high school, homelessness and sex trafficking. Rep. Carter was intrigued by the idea of bringing to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services a computer application that uses data and predictive models to increase the likelihood of success for a child in family pairings. Successful matches not only would provide better outcomes for children as they experience placement stability but should further encourage more families to adopt children in care.

Simultaneously, a group of Tennessee adoption attorneys met in Nashville in August 2017 to initiate discussions about changes to Tennessee’s adoption code that would help children find permanency faster, without compromising birth parents’ constitutionally protected rights or viable opportunities for family reunification. The people in that group were Meredith Brasfield, Elizabeth Carroll, Lisa Collins, Dawn Coppock, Stewart Crane, Mike Jennings, Ted Kern, Jason Long, Sharon Massey, Andy Roskind, Wende Jane Rutherford, Julia Tate, Bob Tuke, Will Vetterick, Kevin Weaver, Jennifer Williams and Julia Spannaus.

That group of attorneys subsequently petitioned the Tennessee Bar Association to create an Adoption Law Section, and in that capacity offered a proposed bill to Rep. Carter to sponsor in the House as a companion piece to the Family Match program now being implemented by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Sen. Ferrell Haile, having sponsored adoption legislation in the past, readily agreed to carry FIAA in the Senate.

The First in Adoption Act was signed into law May 3, 2018, and is effective July 1.

For more information on the TBA’s Adoption Law Section, go to www.tba.org/section/adoption-law-section.