House Bill 815, titled The Loving Homes Act, would allow one child or siblings in foster care to be placed in a foster home even if the foster family already exceeds the N.C. limit of five biological or other adopted children.
The exceptions that H.B. 815 adds to avoid the five-child limit include:
- If written documentation is submitted that family foster care siblings will be placed together, if the foster home complies with all other licensure requirements, and, if an agreement is signed stating the foster parent’s skill, stamina, and ability to care for the children.
- If the family foster home would otherwise qualify for the placement of one child or siblings in foster care, but solely does not because of the five-child limit. As long as the written documentation guarantees that siblings will be placed together, no additional agreement on the foster parent’s skill is needed.
Both exceptions apply to foster-care families attempting to foster siblings, while the second exception also pertains to single foster-care children.
Rep. Allen Chesser, R-Nash, is a sponsor of the bill and spoke with CJ on the motivation behind the bill.
“The mission is essentially to provide more eligible foster homes,” Chesser stated. After tragically losing their sixth child before birth, Chesser and his wife tried for adoption.
“God showed us that there was room in our hearts for another child,” Chesser stated. “Our life adjusted to make room for that sixth child. Financially, we’re secure enough to have a sixth child in the house. However, when we reached out about fostering we found out that there’s an automatic disqualifier in the Administrative Code.”
The disqualifier was the five-child limit, which included not just the foster parent’s own biological and other foster children but also any other children being cared for in the home for any other reason.
“We still have children that we can’t provide for in the state, and this needs to be a focal point. The fundamental message that we want to send is that North Carolina is the best state to be born in,” Chesser told CJ.
Federally, exceptions for the five-child adoption limit already existed. For example, the federal limit for foster children is six, but even then someone could still hypothetically host more than six children in the case that the sixth child has siblings, because keeping siblings together is a top priority. In these cases, families would essentially already be pre-approved to foster more than six children if, for example, the sibling of a current foster child became available to foster.
The issue that often arose due to current North Carolina regulations was that prospective foster parents in North Carolina would be barred from adopting more than five children solely due to the five-child limit and not their ability to host more than five children. This means that capable families in N.C. would not get the ability to prove their ability to foster a sixth child.
Chesser stated that “larger families were being arbitrarily disqualified from fostering simply because they were larger families. The disqualification happens on the front end of the process, without any safety checks occurring.”
Senate Health Care Committee hearing
H.B. 815 was discussed in the Senate Health Care Committee, Wednesday morning. Rep. Chesser presented the bill stating that the purpose of it was to solve the problem of not having enough “qualified beds for foster children.”
During his comments, Chesser stated, “What this does is keep all the safeguards in place. And it says, if you can meet all the other requirements and the N.C. DHHS feels confident signing off on you, you are now eligible to host one foster child or a sibling pair.”
State Sen. Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson, made the motion for a favorable referral to the Senate Rules Committee, which passed.