Lawmaker spotlights adoptable children on Georgia House floor

State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, D-Snellville, speaks on the floor of the Georgia House every day to bring attention to individual children who are ready for adoption. The Gwinnett County legislator, a social worker for more than 20 years, said she thought she “could at least give some kind of exposure to the fact that we have over 2,000 children available for adoption.”

A freshman lawmaker has been working to include adoptable children in the Georgia House’s daily rituals.

In between the visiting chaplains, doctors of the day and championship sports teams, state Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, D-Snellville, has introduced Georgia children ready for adoption almost every legislative day this session. Hutchinson knew her status as a first-term lawmaker in the minority party put her at the bottom of the House hierarchy, but she still wanted to find a way to make an impact.

“I thought that I could at least give some kind of exposure to the fact that we have over 2,000 children available for adoption,” Hutchinson said. The Gwinnett County legislator has been a social worker for more than 20 years, and most of her career has involved adoption and foster care.

Hutchinson finds who she'll feature on the floor each day through It's My Turn Now, a state website with nearly 200 listings for children and groups of siblings in search of adoptive homes. The site is "set up exactly like one for an animal shelter," Hutchinson said, with photos, ages, names and short descriptions of the kids' personalities: 15-year-old Jonathan loves the Georgia Bulldogs, 11-year-old Brian likes riding the school bus with his friends; and siblings D.J. and Johnny like to play basketball together. She uses that information to introduce each child to the House.

She tries to show children of all races and ages, and she looks for those who, statistically, have a harder time finding a home. Teenagers, African American boys, “medically fragile” children and groups of siblings are typically the hardest to place, Hutchinson said.

“Anytime I have a chance to highlight those kids, I will do it,” Hutchinsion said. “There’s a child for every family on that website.”

Adoption and foster care are legislative priorities for Gov. Brian Kemp this year. Lowering the minimum age for adoptive parents to 21 and increasing tax credits for adoption are among the governor's goals. Hutchinson said she's spoken to Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston about adoption issues, but she does not expect to be involved in shaping the legislation.

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