2005 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare
By: Senator(s) Nunnelee
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 43-15-117 AND 93-17-11, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT ANY CHILD-PLACING AGENCY DOMICILED IN ANOTHER JURISDICTION SHALL BE LICENSED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MAINTAIN AN OFFICE IN MISSISSIPPI AND TO REQUIRE THE CHANCERY COURT TO ORDER A HOME STUDY IN ANY ADOPTION PROCEEDING TO BE MADE BY A LICENSED CHILD-PLACING AGENCY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-15-117, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-15-117. (1) Except as provided in this article, no person, agency, firm, corporation, association or group children's home may engage in child placing, or solicit money or other assistance for child placing, without a valid license issued by the division. No child-placing agency shall advertise in the media markets in Mississippi seeking birth mothers or their children for adoption purposes unless the agency holds a valid and current license issued either by the division or the authorized governmental licensing agency of another state that regulates child-placing agencies. A child-placing agency domiciled in another jurisdiction which provides a full range of services, including, but not limited to, adoption, foster family homes, adoption counseling services or financial aid in Mississippi, shall be licensed by the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Further, said out of state child-placing agency shall maintain an office with a resident executive and staff within the State of Mississippi.
(2) An attorney, physician or other person may assist a parent in identifying or locating a person interested in adopting the parent's child, or in identifying or locating a child to be adopted. However, no payment, charge, fee, reimbursement of expense, or exchange of value of any kind, or promise or agreement to make the same, may be made for that assistance.
(3) Nothing in this section precludes payment of reasonable fees for medical, legal or other lawful services rendered in connection with the care of a mother, delivery and care of a child including, but not limited to, the mother's living expenses, or counseling for the parents and/or the child, and for the legal proceedings related to lawful adoption proceedings; and no provision of this section abrogates the right of procedures for independent adoption as provided by law.
(4) The division is specifically authorized to promulgate rules under the Administrative Procedures Law, Title 25, Chapter 43, Mississippi Code of 1972, to regulate fees charged by licensed child-placing agencies, if it determines that the practices of those licensed child-placing agencies demonstrates that the fees charged are excessive or that any of the agency's practices are deceptive or misleading; however, those rules regarding fees shall take into account the use of any sliding fee by an agency that uses a sliding fee procedure to permit prospective adoptive parents of varying income levels to utilize the services of those agencies or persons.
(5) The division shall promulgate rules under the Administrative Procedures Law, Title 25, Chapter 43, Mississippi Code of 1972, to require that all licensed child-placing agencies provide written disclosures to all prospective adoptive parents of any fees or other charges for each service performed by the agency or person, and file an annual report with the division that states the fees and charges for those services, and to require them to inform the division in writing thirty (30) days in advance of any proposed changes to the fees or charges for those services.
(6) The division is specifically authorized to disclose to prospective adoptive parents or other interested persons any fees charged by any licensed child-placing agency, attorney or counseling service or counselor for all legal and counseling services provided by that licensed child-placing agency, attorney or counseling service or counselor.
SECTION 2. Section 93-17-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-17-11. At any time after the filing of the petition for adoption and completion of process thereon where the petitioner or petitioners are not a relative or step-parent of the child, the court shall require a home study to be made of the petitioner or petitioners, which shall be completed and signed by a Mississippi licensed adoption agency, at the petitioner's or petitioners' sole expense and at no cost to the state or county, * * * giving the material facts upon which the court may determine whether the child is a proper subject for adoption, whether the petitioners or petitioner are suitable parents for the child, whether the adoption is to its best interest, and any other facts or circumstances that may be material to the proposed adoption. In addition, the court shall require the petition for adoption to be accompanied by affidavits of the petitioner or petitioners stating the amount of the service fees charged by any adoption agencies or adoption facilitators used by the petitioner or petitioners and any other expenses paid by the petitioner or petitioners in the adoption process. The court * * * shall stay the proceedings in the cause for such reasonable time as may be necessary or required in the opinion of the court for the completion of the investigation and home study report by the person, officer, or home designated and authorized to make the same.
Upon the filing of that consent or the completion of the process and the filing of the investigation and home study report * * * and the presentation of such other evidence as may be desired by the court, if the court determines that it is to the best interests of the child that an interlocutory decree of adoption be entered, the court may thereupon enter an interlocutory decree upon such terms and conditions as may be determined by the court, in its discretion, but including therein that the complete care, custody and control of the child shall be vested in the petitioner or petitioners until further orders of the court and that during such time the child shall be and remain a ward of the court. If the court determines by decree at any time during the pendency of the proceeding that it is not to the best interests of the child that the adoption proceed, the petitioners shall be entitled to at least five (5) days' notice upon their attorneys of record and a hearing with the right of appeal as provided by law from a dismissal of the petition; however, the bond perfecting the appeal shall be filed within ten (10) days from the entry of the decree of dismissal and the bond shall be in such amount as the chancellor may determine and supersedeas may be granted by the chancellor or as otherwise provided by law for appeal from final decrees.
After the entry of the interlocutory decree and before entry of the final decree, the court may require such further and additional investigation and reports as it may deem proper. The rights of the parties filing the consent or served with process shall be subject to the decree but shall not be divested until entry of the final decree.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.