WHEREAS, adoption, either through adoption agencies or independently, is a very important process necessary for the establishment of permanency for children by establishing new families for children whose biological families are unable to care for them; and
WHEREAS, Virginia's adoption laws have been amended numerous times over the years and are lengthy, complex, and confusing; and
WHEREAS, with the reduction in children available for adoption in the United States, more and more Virginians have adopted children from other countries; and
WHEREAS, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, over 20,000 inter-country adoptions are taking place per year in addition to the more than 200,000 foreign-adopted children already living in the United States; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That a joint subcommittee be established to study Virginia's adoption laws and policies. The joint subcommittee shall have a total membership of 10 members that shall consist of six legislative members, three nonlegislative citizen members, and one ex officio member. Members shall be appointed as follows: two members of the Senate to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules; four members of the House of Delegates to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates in accordance with the principles of proportional representation contained in the Rules of the House of Delegates; one nonlegislative citizen member to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules; and two nonlegislative citizen members to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates. The Commissioner of the Department of Social Services or his designee shall serve ex officio with voting privileges. Nonlegislative citizen members of the joint subcommittee shall be citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Unless otherwise approved in writing by the chairman of the joint subcommittee and the respective Clerk, nonlegislative citizen members shall only be reimbursed for travel originating and ending within the Commonwealth of Virginia for the purpose of attending meetings. If a companion joint resolution of the other chamber is agreed to, written authorization of both Clerks shall be required. The joint subcommittee shall elect a chairman and vice chairman from among its membership, who shall be members of the General Assembly.
In conducting its study, the joint subcommittee shall do a comprehensive review of Virginia's adoption laws, including a review of foreign adoption procedures and a review of the adoption issues identified as areas needing improvement by the Virginia Department of Social Services' Child and Family Services Review, and determine whether such laws can be rewritten and reorganized to give clear and consistent guidance to persons using the laws.
Administrative staff support shall be provided by the Office of the Clerk of the Senate. Legal, research, policy analysis, and other services as requested by the joint subcommittee shall be provided by the Division of Legislative Services. The Department of Social Services shall provide technical assistance, information, and support to the joint subcommittee for this study. All other agencies of the Commonwealth shall provide assistance to the joint subcommittee for this study, upon request.
The joint subcommittee shall be limited to four meetings for the 2005 interim, and the direct costs of this study shall not exceed $8,100 without approval as set out in this resolution. Of this amount, an estimated $1,000 is allocated for speakers, materials, and other resources. Approval for unbudgeted nonmember-related expenses shall require the written authorization of the chairman of the joint subcommittee and the respective Clerk. If a companion joint resolution of the other chamber is agreed to, written authorization of both Clerks shall be required.
No recommendation of the joint subcommittee shall be adopted if a majority of the Senate members or a majority of the House members appointed to the joint subcommittee (i) vote against the recommendation and (ii) vote for the recommendation to fail notwithstanding the majority vote of the joint subcommittee.
The joint subcommittee shall complete its meetings by November 30, 2005, and the chairman shall submit to the Division of Legislative Automated Systems an executive summary of its findings and recommendations no later than the first day of the 2006 Regular Session of the General Assembly. The executive summary shall state whether the joint subcommittee intends to submit to the General Assembly and the Governor a report of its findings and recommendations for publication as a House or Senate document. The executive summary and report shall be submitted as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents and reports and shall be posted on the General Assembly's website.
Implementation of this resolution is subject to subsequent approval and certification by the Joint Rules Committee. The Committee may approve or disapprove expenditures for this study, extend or delay the period for the conduct of the study, or authorize additional meetings during the 2005 interim.