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2818Ratification Number: 515Act Number: 464Introducing Body: HouseSubject: Relating to the Children's Bureau
(A464, R515, H2818)
AN ACT TO AMEND SUBARTICLE 3 OF ARTICLE 13 OF CHAPTER 7 OF TITLE 20, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU, BY ADDING SECTION 20-7-2327 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN BY THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU; BY ADDING SECTION 20-7-2335 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE REQUIREMENTS OF PLACEMENT; BY ADDING SECTION 20-7-2337 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE CONTENTS OF RECORDS OF PLACEMENT; BY ADDING SECTION 20-7-2345 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU TO BE THE GUARDIAN OF CHILDREN COMMITTED TO ITS CARE AND TO REQUIRE THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU'S CONSENT TO ADOPTION OF THE CHILDREN; BY ADDING SECTION 20-7-2355 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO REMOVAL OF CHILDREN FROM THE BIOLOGICAL MOTHER; AND BY ADDING SECTION 20-7-2365 SO AS TO REQUIRE NOTIFICATION TO THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU OF CHILDREN BROUGHT INTO THIS STATE AND REPORTS ON THE LOCATION AND WELL-BEING OF THE CHILDREN; TO AMEND SUBARTICLE 7 OF ARTICLE 11 OF CHAPTER 7 OF TITLE 20, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO ADOPTION, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE SUBARTICLE TO BE CITED AS THE SOUTH CAROLINA ADOPTION ACT; TO ESTABLISH THE PURPOSE OF THE SUBARTICLE; TO DEFINE TERMS; TO SET FORTH NEW PROVISIONS AS TO WHO MAY ADOPT A CHILD; TO DELETE THE PROVISIONS DETAILING CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS OF ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE FAMILY COURT TO HAVE EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION OVER ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS AND WHERE THE PROCEEDINGS MAY BE BROUGHT; TO PROVIDE WHO MUST GIVE CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT FOR THE PURPOSE OF ADOPTION; TO PROVIDE FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF ALL COSTS, NOT ONLY INCIDENTAL COSTS, FOR EXPENSES INCURRED OR FEES FOR SERVICES RENDERED IN THE CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT; TO PROVIDE WHO IS NOT REQUIRED TO GIVE CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT; TO REQUIRE CONSENTS OR RELINQUISHMENTS TO BE MADE BY A SWORN DOCUMENT TO BE FILED IN COURT, FOR THE SPECIFICATIONS OF THE DOCUMENT, AND FOR WITNESSING OF THE DOCUMENT; TO PROVIDE WHEN CONSENTS OR RELINQUISHMENTS MAY BE GIVEN; TO ALLOW WITHDRAWAL OF CONSENTS OR RELINQUISHMENTS AND TO REQUIRE FILING IN COURT OF REASONS FOR WITHDRAWAL; TO DELETE THE REFERENCES TO INTERLOCUTORY ADOPTION DECREE; TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT ADOPTION PETITIONS MUST BE FILED IN DUPLICATE AND VERIFIED BY THE PETITIONERS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE CONTENTS OF AN ADOPTION PETITION AND THE INFORMATION WHICH MUST BE FILED WITH THE PETITION; TO PROVIDE FOR APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN AD LITEM; TO PROVIDE WHO IS ENTITLED TO NOTICE OF ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS AND THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE NOTICE AND OF INTENT TO CONTEST, INTERVENE, OR OTHERWISE RESPOND; TO PROVIDE FOR TEMPORARY CUSTODY OF THE ADOPTEE; TO PROVIDE NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CONTENTS OF REPORTS ON PREPLACEMENT, BACKGROUND, AND POSTPLACEMENT INVESTIGATIONS, WHICH MUST BE COMPLETED PRIOR TO THE FINAL HEARING FOR ADOPTION OF A CHILD; TO DELETE THE PROVISIONS SETTING FORTH ADOPTION REQUIREMENTS WHEN THE CHILD IS RELATED BY BLOOD OR MARRIAGE TO THE PETITIONER OR IS THE STEPCHILD OF THE PETITIONER; TO REQUIRE CERTIFICATION OF CERTAIN PERSONS INVESTIGATING THE ADOPTION OF A CHILD OR OBTAINING A CONSENT OR RELINQUISHMENT, PROVIDE FOR PROMULGATION OF REGULATIONS RELATING TO CERTIFICATION, ALLOW CERTIFIED PERSONS TO CHARGE FEES, AND PROVIDE FOR A DIRECTORY OF CERTIFIED PERSONS; TO PROVIDE NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR FINAL HEARINGS ON ADOPTION PETITIONS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH ADOPTIONS MAY BE GRANTED; TO PROVIDE FOR THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE CONTENTS OF AN ADOPTION DECREE; TO PROVIDE FOR THE EFFECTS OF AN ADOPTION DECREE ON THE ADOPTEE, THE ADOPTIVE PARENT, AND THE BIOLOGICAL PARENTS OF THE ADOPTEE; TO REQUIRE AN ACCOUNTING OF DISBURSEMENTS MADE IN CONNECTION WITH THE ADOPTION, WHICH MUST BE VERIFIED BY THE PETITIONER, AND PROVIDE FOR ITS CONTENTS; TO REQUIRE THE CONFIDENTIALITY OF PAPERS AND RECORDS PERTAINING TO THE ADOPTION; TO PROVIDE FOR ADDITIONAL NONIDENTIFYING INFORMATION WHICH MAY BE DISCLOSED; TO PROVIDE THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE IDENTITIES OF THE ADOPTEE AND HIS BIOLOGICAL PARENTS AND SIBLINGS MUST BE DISCLOSED; TO PROVIDE FOR APPEALS AS IN OTHER FAMILY COURT MATTERS INSTEAD OF CIVIL MATTERS; AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO THE ADOPTION OF A SPOUSE'S CHILD, A CHILD RELATED BY BLOOD OR MARRIAGE, AND ADULTS; AND TO REPEAL SECTIONS 20-7-1830 THROUGH 20-7-1890, RELATING TO THE CHILDREN'S BUREAU.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
Children's Bureau - placement, records, etc.
SECTION 1. Subarticle 3 of Article 13 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 20-7-2327. The Children's Bureau may place in private homes for adoption any destitute, delinquent, neglected, and dependent child committed to the care of the Children's Bureau. Defective and otherwise handicapped children committed to the care of the Children's Bureau must be placed in institutions provided by the State for the care of these children, as may appear advisable for the best interests of the child.
Section 20-7-2335. The Children's Bureau in placing destitute, neglected, dependent, and delinquent children in private homes shall safeguard the welfare of each child by a thorough investigation of each applicant, the home, and the home's environment and shall personally and adequately supervise each child until the child receives legal adoption or attains legal age.
Section 20-7-2337. The Children's Bureau shall keep a record, as current as possible, containing the names, ages, addresses, and occupations of the parents of children coming under the supervision of the Children's Bureau; the dates of reception, placing, and adoption of children; the name, occupation, and residence of the person with whom the child is placed; the date and cause of any removal to another home; and a brief history of each child until the child has reached the age of eighteen years or has been legally adopted or discharged according to law.
Section 20-7-2345. The Children's Bureau is the guardian of any destitute, dependent, neglected, or delinquent child committed to the care of the Children's Bureau and shall, as soon as practicable, place the child in a private home, either temporarily or as a member of the family, and, when this action is considered proper and desirable and does not conflict with any retained legal rights of the biological parents of the child, the Children's Bureau may consent in loco parentis to the legal adoption of the child.
Section 20-7-2355. Any person, including but not limited to midwives, physicians, and nurses, or any hospital, private institution, agency, or organization who removes a child within six months after the child's birth from the child's biological mother shall report to the Children's Bureau the names and addresses of the parents of the child and the names and addresses of the persons with whom the child is left, unless the person removing the child from the child's biological mother knows of his own knowledge that the child was born when the child's mother was married and was not removed from the mother because of immoral surroundings.
Section 20-7-2365. No person may bring or send into this State from any territory or country any child and, leaving it, place the child in a foster home or procure its adoption unless the person so bringing or sending the child first has notified the Children's Bureau of his intention to do so, and unless the person has provided the appropriate information as required by the Children's Bureau. In cases where the State Department of Social Services is contacted by a sending agency of another territory or country in regard to providing foster care placement in this State, the department shall notify the Children's Bureau of its intentions as to bringing and placing the child. The department is also charged with informing the Children's Bureau as to the location and well-being of the child on a yearly basis and providing information on the disposition of the case.
The person bringing or sending the child into this State shall report at least once each year, and at other times as the Children's Bureau directs, as to the location and well-being of the child so long as the child remains in this State, and until it has reached the age of eighteen years or has been legally adopted."
South Carolina Adoption Act enacted
SECTION 2. Subarticle 7 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"Section 20-7-1646. This subarticle may be cited as the South Carolina Adoption Act.
Section 20-7-1647. The purpose of this subarticle is to establish fair and reasonable procedures for the adoption of children and to provide for the well-being of the child, with full recognition of the interdependent needs and interests of the biological parents and the adoptive parents. However, when the interests of a child and an adult are in conflict, the conflict must be resolved in favor of the child. Children may be adopted by or placed for adoption with residents of South Carolina only, except in unusual or exceptional circumstances.
Section 20-7-1650. As used in Subarticles 7 and 9 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) 'Adoptee' means a person who is proposed to be or who has been legally adopted;
(b) 'Adoption' means the judicial act of creating the relationship of parent and child where it did not exist previously;
(c) 'Adoptive parent' means an adult who has become a parent of a child through the legal process of adoption;
(d) 'Child' means any person under eighteen years of age;
(e) 'Child placing agency' or 'agency' means the Children's Bureau of South Carolina, State Department of Social Services, and any person or entity which is licensed pursuant to Sections 20-7-2230 through 20-7-2290 which receives children for placement for adoption;
(f) 'Consent' means the informed and voluntary release in writing of all parental rights with respect to a child by a parent for the purpose of adoption;
(g) 'Legal age' means eighteen years of age or older;
(h) 'Relinquishment' means the informed and voluntary release in writing of all parental rights with respect to a child by a parent to a child placing agency for the purpose of adoption;
(i) 'South Carolina resident' means a person who has established a true, fixed principal residence and place of habitation in this State, and who intends to remain or expects to return upon leaving without establishing residence in another state. Temporary absences for short periods of time do not affect the establishment of residency; and
(j) 'Special needs child' means children who
fall into one or more of the following categories:
(1) children who are members of a sibling group;
(2) children of mixed racial heritage;
(3) children aged six or older; or
(4) children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.
Section 20-7-1660. Any child present within this State at the time the petition for adoption is filed, irrespective of place of birth or place of residence, may be adopted.
Section 20-7-1670. Any South Carolina resident may petition the court to adopt a child. Placement of children for adoption pursuant to this Subarticle 7 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 is limited to South Carolina residents with exceptions being made in the following circumstances only:
(a) The child is a special needs child, as defined by Section 20-7-1650;
(b) There has been public notoriety concerning the child or child's family, and the best interests of the child would be served by placement outside this State;
(c) The child is to be placed for adoption with a relative related biologically or by marriage;
(d) At least one of the adoptive parents is in the military service stationed in South Carolina; or
(e) There are specific findings of fact of unusual or exceptional circumstances that the best interest of the child would be served by placement with or adoption by nonresidents of this State.
Before a child is placed within or outside the boundaries of this State for adoption with nonresidents of this State, compliance with Subarticle 11 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) is required.
Section 20-7-1680. The family court has exclusive jurisdiction over all proceedings held pursuant to this Subarticle 7 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20. Proceedings for adoption
by residents of this State may be brought in the family court of the county in which the petitioner resides or is in military service, or in the county in which the child resides. For nonresidents of this State proceedings for adoption must be brought in the county in which the child resides or in which the agency having custody of the child is located.
The family court may order a change of venue as in civil proceedings in this State.
Section 20-7-1690. (A) Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is required of the following persons:
(1) the adoptee, if over fourteen years of age, except where the court finds that the adoptee does not have the mental capacity to give consent, or that the best interests of the adoptee are served by not requiring consent; and either
(2) the parents or surviving parent of a child conceived or born during the marriage of the parents; or
(3) the mother of a child born when the mother was not married; and either
(4) the father of a child born when the father was not married to the child's mother, if the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents more than six months after the child's birth, but only if the father has maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child as demonstrated by:
(a) payment by the father toward the support of the child of a fair and reasonable sum, based on the father's financial ability; and either
(b) visits by the father to the child at least monthly when the father is physically and financially able to do so, and when the father is not prevented from doing so by the person or agency having lawful custody of the child; or
(c) regular communication by the father with the child or with the person or agency having lawful custody of the child, when the father is physically and financially unable to visit the child, or when the father is prevented from doing so by the person or agency having lawful custody of the child.
The subjective intent of the father, if unsupported by evidence of the acts specified in subitems (a), (b), and (c) of this item (4) of subsection (A) of this section, does not preclude a determination that the father failed to maintain substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child. In making this determination, the court may not require a showing of diligent efforts by any person or agency having lawful custody of the child to encourage the father to perform the acts. A father of a child born when the father was not married to the child's mother, who openly lived with the child for a period of six months within the one year period immediately preceding the placement of the child for adoption, and who during the six months period openly held himself out to be the father of the child is considered to have maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child for the purpose of this item (4) of subsection (A) of this section; or
(5) the father of a child born when the father was not married to the child's mother, if the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents six months or less after the child's birth, but only if:
(a) the father openly lived with the child or the child's mother for a continuous period of six months immediately preceding the placement of the child for adoption and the father openly held himself out to be the father of the child during the six months period; or
(b) the father paid a fair and reasonable sum, based on the father's financial ability, for the support of the child or for expenses incurred in connection with the mother's pregnancy or with the birth of the child, including but not limited to medical, hospital, and nursing expenses.
(B) Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is required of the legal guardian, child placing agency, or legal custodian of the child if:
(1) Both the parents of the child are deceased;
(2) The parental rights of both the parents have been judicially terminated; or
(3) The child has been relinquished for adoption to the legal guardian, child placing agency, or legal custodian. If the consent of a child placing agency required by this subsection is not provided to any person eligible under Section 20-7-1670, the agency has an affirmative duty to inform the person who is denied consent of all of his rights for judicial review of the denial.
(C) Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption given by a parent who is a minor is not subject to revocation by reason of the parent's minority.
(D) Under no circumstances may a parent, legal guardian, child placing agency, or legal custodian of a child receive a fee, compensation, or any other thing of value as consideration for consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption. However, costs may be assessed if they are reimbursements for expenses incurred or fees for services rendered.
Section 20-7-1695. (A) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20-7-1690, consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is not required of the following persons:
(1) a parent whose rights with reference to the adoptee have been terminated pursuant to Subarticle 3 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20; or
(2) a parent who has been adjudged incompetent or a parent whom the court finds to be mentally incapable of giving consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption and whose competence or capacity is unlikely to be restored for a lengthy period of time, and, in the court's judgment, it would be detrimental to the adoptee to delay adoption until restoration. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem and may appoint independent counsel for a parent for whom there has been no prior appointment.
(B) A parent who has executed a relinquishment pursuant to Section 20-7-1700 to a child placing agency for the purpose of adoption of his child is not required to also execute a separate consent document.
Section 20-7-1700. (A) Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption, pursuant to Section 20-7-1690, must be made by a sworn document, signed by the person or the head of the agency giving consent or relinquishment, and shall specify the following:
(1) the permanent address of the person or agency making the sworn written statement;
(2) the date, time, and place of the signing of the statement;
(3) the date of birth, race, and sex of the adoptee and any names by which the adoptee has been known;
(4) the relationship of the adoptee to the person or agency giving consent or relinquishment;
(5) the name and address of the adoptee's mother or father;
(6) that the consent or relinquishment by the person or agency forfeits all rights and obligations of the person or agency with respect to the named adoptee;
(7) that consent or relinquishment once given must not be withdrawn except by order of the court upon a finding that it is in the best interests of the child, and that the consent or relinquishment was not given voluntarily or was obtained under duress or through coercion; and that the entry of the final decree of adoption renders any consent or relinquishment irrevocable;
(8) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment understands that consent or relinquishment must not be given if psychological or legal advice, guidance, or counseling is needed or desired;
(9) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment waives further notice of the adoption proceedings, unless the proceedings are contested by another person or agency;
(10) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment has not been subjected to any pressure and is voluntarily and freely giving the consent or relinquishment; and
(11) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment has received a copy of the document.
(B) When a child placing agency accepts a relinquishment for the purpose of adoption, which gives the agency the right to consent to an adoption of the child, and which contains the information required in subsection (A) of this section, the consent of the agency for the purpose of adoption is not required to meet the requirements of subsection (A). However, the sworn document relinquishing the child must be filed with the court pursuant to subsection (C) of Section 20-7-1730.
Section 20-7-1705. (A) The sworn document provided for in Section 20-7-1700, which gives consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption must be signed in the presence of two witnesses one of whom must be one of the following:
(1) a judge of any family court in this State;
(2) an attorney licensed to practice law in South Carolina who does not represent the prospective adoption petitioners;
(3) a person certified by the Children's Bureau of South Carolina, pursuant to Section 20-7-1750, to obtain consents or relinquishments; or
(4) when the consent or relinquishment is obtained outside of this State, by an attorney licensed to practice law in that state, by a person designated by an agency of that state, by a person or agency authorized by that state's law to obtain consents or relinquishments or to conduct investigations for adoptions, or by a qualified resident of that state authorized by a South Carolina family court.
(B) The persons who witness the signing of the sworn document, as provided for in subsection (A) of this section shall attach to the document written certification that prior to the signing of the document, the provisions of the document were discussed with the person giving consent or relinquishment, and that based on this discussion, it is each witness' opinion that consent or relinquishment is given knowingly, intentionally, voluntarily, and freely.
(C) A copy of the document must be delivered to the person giving the consent or relinquishment at the time of the signing of the document.
Section 20-7-1720. Withdrawal of any consent or relinquishment is not permitted except by order of the court after notice and opportunity to be heard is given to all persons concerned, and except when the court finds that the withdrawal is in the best interests of the child and that the consent or relinquishment was not given voluntarily or was obtained under duress or through coercion. Any person attempting to withdraw consent or relinquishment shall file the reasons for withdrawal with the family court. The entry of the final decree of adoption renders any consent or relinquishment irrevocable.
Section 20-7-1730. (A) A petition for adoption shall specify:
(1) the full name, age, address, and place of residence of each petitioner, and, if married, the place and date of the marriage;
(2) when the petitioner acquired, or intends to acquire, custody or placement of the child and from what person or agency;
(3) the date and place of birth of the child, if known;
(4) the name used for the child in the proceeding, and if a change in name is desired, the new name;
(5) that it is the desire of the petitioner to establish the relationship of parent and child between the petitioner and the child, and that the petitioner is a fit and proper person and able to care for the child and to provide for the child's welfare;
(6) a full description and statement of value of all real property and of any personal property of value owned or possessed by the child;
(7) facts, if any, which excuse consent on the part of a parent to the adoption or which excuse notice of the adoption proceedings to a parent;
(8) facts, if any, which may permit placement with or adoption by nonresidents of this State, pursuant to Section 20-7-1670;
(9) the existence and nature of any prior court orders known to the petitioner which affect the custody, support, or visitation of the child;
(10) the relationship, if any, of each petitioner to the child; and
(11) the name and address of the child placing agency or the person facilitating placement of the child for adoption, if any.
(B) The petition must be filed within thirty days of the date the adoptee is placed for the purpose of adoption in the home of the petitioner.
(C) Any written consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption required by Section 20-7-1690 must be filed at the time the adoption petition is filed or, after the filing, with the consent of the court.
(D) Copies of the preplacement and the background investigation reports must be attached to the petition when it is filed with the court. The postplacement investigation report must be completed and filed with the court at the time of the final hearing on the adoption of the child.
(E) A statement of all payments of money or anything of value made within the past five years or agreed to be made in the future by or on behalf of the petitioner to any person, agency, or organization connected with the adoption must be attached to the petition.
Section 20-7-1732. After the filing of an adoption petition and before any hearing is held, a guardian ad litem must be appointed for the child as in other family court actions.
Section 20-7-1734. (A) Notice of any proceeding initiated pursuant to this Subarticle 7 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 must be given to the persons or agencies specified in subsection (B) of this section, unless the person has given consent or relinquishment or parental rights have been terminated.
(B) The following persons or agencies are entitled to notice as provided in subsection (A) of this section:
(1) any person adjudicated by a court in this State to be the father of the child;
(2) any person or agency required to give consent or relinquishment pursuant to subsections (A) or (B) of Section 20-7-1690 from whom consent or relinquishment cannot be obtained;
(3) the father of the child whose consent or relinquishment is not required pursuant to items (4) or (5) of subsection (A) of Section 20-7-1690;
(4) any person who is recorded on the child's birth certificate as the child's father;
(5) any person who is openly living with the child or the child's mother, or both, at the time the adoption proceeding is initiated, and who is holding himself out to be the child's father;
(6) any person who has been identified as the child's father by the mother in a sworn, written statement; and
(7) any person from whom consent or relinquishment is not required pursuant to item (2) of subsection (A) of Section 20-7-1695.
(C) Persons specified in subsection (B) of this section are not entitled to notice if the child who is the subject of the adoption proceeding was conceived as a result of criminal sexual conduct or incest.
(D) Any person or agency entitled to notice pursuant to this section must be given notice that adoption proceedings have been initiated. Notice must be given in the manner prescribed by law for personal service of summons in civil actions. If notice cannot be effected by personal service, notice may be given by publication or by the manner the court decides will provide notice.
(E) Notice given pursuant to this section must include notice of the following:
(1) Within thirty days of receiving notice the person or agency shall respond in writing by filing with the court in which the adoption is pending notice of intent to contest, intervene, or otherwise respond;
(2) The court must be informed of the person's or agency's current address and of any changes in address during the adoption proceedings; and
(3) Failure to file a response within thirty days of receiving notice constitutes consent to adoption of the child and forfeiture of all rights and obligations of the person or agency with respect to the child.
When notice of intent to contest, intervene, or otherwise respond is filed with the court within the required time period, the person or agency must be given an opportunity to appear and to be heard prior to the final hearing on the merits of the adoption.
Petitioners must be notified by the court of notice of intent to contest, intervene, or otherwise respond, and petitioners must also be given the opportunity to be represented or to appear and to be heard at any hearing held relating to the adoption.
Section 20-7-1738. Once a petitioner has received the adoptee into his home and a petition for adoption has been filed, the petitioner has temporary custody of the adoptee and is responsible for the care, maintenance, and support of the adoptee, including any necessary medical or surgical treatment, except as provided for in Sections 20-7-1900 through 20-7-1970. A postplacement investigation and report of this investigation pursuant to Section 20-7-1740 must be completed prior to the final hearing.
Section 20-7-1740. Prior to the final hearing for adoption of a child, investigations and reports must be completed in accordance with the following:
(A) Prior to the placement of any child by any agency or by any person with a prospective adoptive parent, a preplacement investigation, a background investigation, and reports of these investigations must be completed.
(1) Preplacement investigations shall answer all of the following:
(a) whether the home of the prospective adoptive parent is a suitable one for the placement of the child to be adopted;
(b) how the emotional maturity, finances, health, relationships, and any other relevant characteristics of the prospective adoptive parent affect the parent's ability to accept, care, and provide the adoptee with an adequate environment as the adoptee matures;
(c) whether the prospective adoptive parent has ever been involved in any proceeding concerning allegedly neglected, abandoned, abused, or delinquent children;
(d) the race, sex, and age of the adoptee, and whether the child is a suitable child for adoption by the prospective adoptive parent;
(e) the reason for the adoptee's placement away from the biological parents of the adoptee;
(f) whether the adoptee, if of appropriate age and mental capacity, desires to be adopted;
(g) whether placement with the prospective adoptive parent is in the best interests of the adoptee;
(h) whether the prospective adoptive parent has completed a course or counseling in preparation for adoption;
(i) whether placement of the adoptee with the prospective adoptive parent is approved, and if not approved, a statement of the reasons for not approving the placement; and
(j) any other information that is disclosed by the investigation that would be of value to or would assist the court in deciding the case.
(2) If the waiting period for an adoptive placement exceeds one year from the date the preplacement investigation report is completed, the report must be updated at that time and every six months after that time to determine any change in circumstances.
(3) A background information investigation and a report of this investigation may not disclose the identity of the biological parents of the adoptee and shall provide the following:
(a) a medical history of the biological family of the adoptee, including parents, siblings, and other family members related to the adoptee including ages, sex, race, and any known genetic, psychological, metabolic, or familial disorders; and
(b) a medical and developmental history of the adoptee.
(4) Notwithstanding any provision of this section, upon good cause shown, the court in its discretion may permit the temporary custody and placement of a child with a prospective adoptive parent prior to the completion of the preplacement or background investigation and reports required pursuant to this subarticle.
(B) A postplacement investigation and report of this investigation must be completed after the filing of the adoption petition. Copies of this report must be provided to the adoption petitioner and must be filed with the court at the final hearing on the adoption provided for in Section 20-7-1760. A postplacement investigation and report of this investigation shall:
(1) verify the allegations of the adoption petition and its attachments and of the accounting of disbursements required under Section 20-7-1775;
(2) evaluate the progress of the placement of the adoptee; and
(3) determine whether adoption by the petitioner continues to be in the best interests of the adoptee.
(C) The investigators and all persons participating in, conducting, or associated with the preparation of reports required under this section must be available for examination and cross-examination by any party to an adoption proceeding concerning the contents of and recommendations contained in the reports.
Section 20-7-1750. With the exception of the persons provided for in items (1), (2), and (4) of subsection (A) of Section 20-7-1705, any person obtaining a consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption must be certified by the Children's Bureau. Any person conducting an investigation for the adoption of a child pursuant to Section 20-7-1740 also must be certified by the Children's Bureau. However, where the adoption petitioner or prospective adoption petitioner is a nonresident of this State, a South Carolina family court may authorize a qualified nonresident to conduct any investigations required under Section 20-7-1740.
The Children's Bureau shall promulgate regulations to provide for the following: certification of investigators; issuance, monitoring, and revocation of certificates; and sanctioning of noncompliance with regulations. Any person certified by the Children's Bureau may charge a fee which may not exceed the reasonable costs of the services rendered. The fee must be approved by the Children's Bureau during the certification process.
The Children's Bureau shall develop, revise, and publish quarterly a directory of persons certified pursuant to this section. A reasonable fee may be charged by the Children's Bureau for copies of this directory.
Section 20-7-1760. (A) The final hearing on the adoption petition must not be held prior to ninety days and no later than six months after the filing of the adoption petition. In the case of a special needs child, the hearing must not be held prior to ninety days and no later than twelve months after the filing of the adoption petition. In its discretion, upon good cause shown, the court may extend the time within which the final hearing on the adoption petition may be held.
(B) Upon satisfactory examination by the court of the record, including the reports required in Section 20-7-1740, and following the final hearing on the adoption petition the court shall issue an order granting the adoption if it finds that:
(1) The adoptee has been in the actual custody of the petitioner for a period of ninety days;
(2) All necessary consents or relinquishments for the purpose of adoption have been obtained;
(3) Notice of the adoption proceeding has been given to all persons entitled to receive notice under Sections 20-7-1690 and 20-7-1734, and any hearing resulting from the notice has been held and handled according to the satisfaction of the court;
(4) The disbursements made and accounted for pursuant to Section 20-7-1775 are reasonable costs for expenses incurred or for fees for services rendered;
(5) The petitioner is a fit and proper person and able to care for the child and to provide for the child's welfare, and the petitioner desires to establish the relationship of parent and child with the adoptee;
(6) The best interests of the adoptee are served by the adoption; and
(7) If the petitioner is a nonresident of this State, the findings pursuant to Section 20-7-1660 are included in the order, and there has been compliance with Subarticle 11 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children).
(C) The court shall enter its findings in a written decree which shall also include the new name of the adoptee, if appropriate, and may not include any other name by which the adoptee has been known or the names of the biological or presumed parents of the adoptee. The final adoption decree shall order what effect, if any, the adoption has on the legal rights and responsibilities of the adoptee's biological parents, that the adoptee is the child of the petitioner, and that the adoptee must be accorded the status provided for in Section 20-7-1770.
Section 20-7-1770. (A) After the final decree of adoption is entered, the relationship of parent and child and all the rights, duties, and other legal consequences of the natural relationship of parent and child exist between the adoptee, the adoptive parent, and the kindred of the adoptive parent.
(B) After a final decree of adoption is entered, the biological parents of the adoptee are relieved of all parental responsibilities and have no rights over the adoptee.
(C) From the date the final decree of adoption is entered, the adoptee is considered a natural child of the adoptive parent for all inheritance purposes, both by and from the child, to the exclusion of the biological parents or the family members of the biological parents.
(D) Notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary in this section, the adoption of a child by an adoptive parent does not in any way change the legal relationship between the child and either biological parent of the child whose parental responsibilities and rights are not expressly affected by the final decree.
Section 20-7-1775. (A) At the final hearing on the adoption the petitioner shall file a full, itemized accounting of all disbursements of anything of value made, agreed to be made, or anticipated being made by or on behalf of the petitioner in connection with the adoption. The accounting must be verified by the petitioner under penalty of perjury.
(B) The accounting by the petitioner shall include the following:
(1) dates and amounts of all disbursements made, agreed to be made, or anticipated being made and by whom the disbursements were or are to be made;
(2) the names and addresses of all persons to whom the disbursements were made or are to be made; and
(3) the services received for the disbursements and by whom the services were received.
Section 20-7-1780. (A) Unless the court otherwise orders, all hearings held in proceedings under Subarticles 7 and 9 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 are confidential and must be held in closed court without admittance of any person other than those persons involved in the proceedings and their counsel.
(B) All papers and records pertaining to the adoption and filed with the clerk of court are confidential from the time of filing and upon entry of the final adoption decree must be sealed and kept as a permanent record of the court and withheld from inspection. No person may have access to the records except for good cause shown by order of the judge of the court in which the decree of adoption was entered.
(C) All files and records pertaining to the adoption proceedings in the Children's Bureau of the State of South Carolina, in the State Department of Social Services, in any authorized agency, or maintained by any person certified by the Children's Bureau under the provisions of Section 20-7-1750 are confidential and must be withheld from inspection except upon order of court for good cause shown.
(D) The provisions of this section must not be construed to prevent any adoption agency from furnishing to adoptive parents, biological parents, or adoptees nonidentifying information when in the sole discretion of the chief executive officer of the agency the information would serve the best interests of the persons concerned either during the period of placement or at a subsequent time nor must the provisions of Subarticles 7 and 9 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 be construed to prevent giving nonidentifying information to any other person, party, or agency who in the discretion of the chief executive officer of the agency has established a sufficient reason justifying the release of that nonidentifying information. As used in this subsection 'nonidentifying information' includes but is not limited to the following:
(1) the health and medical histories of the biological parents;
(2) the health and medical history of the adoptee;
(3) the adoptee's general family background without name references or geographical designations; and
(4) the length of time the adoptee has been in the care and custody of the adoptive parent.
(E) (1) The public adoption agencies responsible for the placement shall furnish to an adoptee the identity of the adoptee's biological parents and siblings and to the biological parents and siblings the identity of the adoptee under the following conditions:
(a) The adoptee must be twenty-one years of age or older, and the applicants shall apply in writing to the adoption agency for the information.
(b) The adoption agency must have a current file containing affidavits from the adoptee and the biological parents and siblings that they are willing to have their identities revealed to each other. The affidavit also must include a statement releasing the agency from any liability due to the disclosure. It is the responsibility of the person furnishing the affidavit to advise the agency of any change in his status, name, and address.
(c) The adoption agency shall establish and maintain a confidential register containing the names and addresses of the adoptees and biological parents and siblings who have filed an affidavit. It is the responsibility of the person whose name and address are in the register to provide the agency with his current name and address.
(d) The adoptee and his biological parents and siblings shall undergo counseling by the adoption agency concerning the effects of the disclosure. The adoption agency may charge a fee for the services, but services must not be denied because of inability to pay.
(e) The adoptive parents do not object in writing within thirty days after receipt of confidential written notification from the agency of the pending application.
(2) No disclosure may be made within thirty days after compliance with these conditions. The director of the adoption agency may waive the thirty-day period in extreme circumstances.
(3) The adoption agency may delay disclosure for twenty days from the expiration of the thirty-day period to allow time to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin the disclosure for good cause shown.
Section 20-7-1790. (A) For each adoption handled through a child placing agency as defined in Section 20-7-1650, the attorney for the petitioner shall, within fifteen days of the filing of the final decree, transmit to the appropriate agency a certified copy of the adoption decree and a Certificate of Adoption with Part II completed and verified by the adoptive parent and Part III certified by the clerk of court. The agency shall complete Part I of the Certificate of Adoption and transmit the form to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics within thirty days of the filing of the final decree.
(B) For other adoptions, the attorney for the petitioner shall complete Parts I and II of the Certificate of Adoption form provided by the State Registrar of Vital Statistics and file with the clerk of court at the time of filing of the final decree. The clerk of court shall certify Part III of the Certificate of Adoption and transmit the form to the State Registrar within thirty days of the filing of the final decree.
(C) The State Registrar, upon receipt of a certified Certificate of Adoption, shall prepare a supplementary certificate of birth in the new name of the adoptee, free of any reference to or indication of the fact that the child was adopted, and showing the adoptive parent as the natural parent, except that amended certificates for an adoption of an adult shall display the words 'By Adoption' on the face of the amended certificate. The State Registrar shall transmit certified Certificates of Adoption for persons born outside of this State to the State Registrar in the state of birth.
(D) The Certificate of Adoption form provided by the State Registrar must not be used in conjunction with any legal procedure affecting a birth certificate other than adoption.
(E) The State Registrar shall require the county registrar to return the copy of the original certificate recorded at the county office to the state office to be placed in the special sealed file. Periodically, the State Registrar shall transmit copies of amendatory certificates to the county registrars in the county of birth.
Section 20-7-1800. An appeal is allowed from any final order, judgment, or decree rendered under this Subarticle 7 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 by any person against whom the order, judgment, or decree may be made or who may be affected by the order, judgment, or decree in the manner provided for appeals from the court in other family court matters. No final decree of adoption is subject to collateral attack for any reason after a period of one year following its issuance.
Section 20-7-1810. When the relationship of parent and child has been created by a decree of adoption of a court of any other state or nation, the rights and obligations of the parties as to matters within the jurisdiction of this State must be determined by Section 20-7-1770.
Section 20-7-1820. Any person may adopt his spouse's child, and any person may adopt a child to whom he is related by blood or marriage. In the adoption of these children:
(a) No investigation or report required under the provisions of Section 20-7-1740 is required unless otherwise directed by the court;
(b) No accounting by the petitioner of all disbursements required under the provisions of Section 20-7-1775 is required unless the accounting is ordered by the court; and
(c) Upon good cause shown, the court may waive the requirement, pursuant to Section 20-7-1760, that the final hearing must not be held prior to ninety days after the filing of the adoption petition.
Section 20-7-1825. An adult person may be adopted by any other adult person with the consent of the person to be adopted or his guardian, and with the consent of the spouse, if any, of a sole adoptive parent, filed in writing with the court. Although consent of the adoptee's biological parents is not required, it is necessary to provide notice to the biological parents that adoption proceedings have been initiated and to provide the biological parents an opportunity to be heard on the adoption. Notice must be given in the manner prescribed by law for personal service of summons in civil actions. If notice cannot be effected by personal service, notice may be given by publication or by the manner the court decides will provide notice.
The provisions of Sections 20-7-1647 through 20-7-1760 do not apply to the adoption of an adult person. A petition for the adoption of an adult person must be filed with the family court in the county where the adoptive parent resides. After a hearing on the petition and after investigations as the court considers advisable, if the court finds that it is in the best interests of the persons involved, a decree of adoption may be entered which has the legal consequences stated in Section 20-7-1770."
SECTION 3. Sections 20-7-1830 through 20-7-1890 of the 1976 Code are repealed.
SECTION 4. This act shall take effect six months after approval by the Governor, except adoption proceedings in progress and not completed before the effective date of this act must be carried to conclusion pursuant to the provisions of Subarticle 7 of Article 11 of Chapter 7 of Title 20 of the 1976 Code, as the provisions existed prior to amendment by this act, unless the proceedings are otherwise revised by the family court to conform to the provisions of this act.