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Adoption and Safe Families Act

by Rosie Luciano December 14, 2021

Adoption and Safe Families Act

There are many children in the child welfare system. In the year of 2017, there were more than 690,000 children in the foster care system. The average time spent in foster care is 2 years, but in 2017 more than six percent of those children stayed there for more than 5 years (Children’s Rights, 2019). Some children who enter the foster care system don’t ever get placed into a family or permanent home and end up aging out. More than 17,000 young adults aged out of foster care causing them to become homeless, unemployed, or criminals. The child welfare issues has been an on-going problem since the 1990’s. In 1997, President Bill Clinton and his administration, passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act. This policy was created to promote permanent placement for children in the foster care system and keep them safe during the permanency process and leave no kid without hope of a family. As the problem continues to grow for neglected and abused children, it is important to advocate for these children to policymakers, so we can reduce the percentage of children coming into the foster care system and not having a permanent home or family and aging out by the age of 18 or 21 depending on state laws.

In 1997, Bill Clinton and his administration, passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The purpose and goal of this policy was to promote permanent placement for children in foster care in a timely manner while also keeping them safe throughout their permanency process. There were many children being taken away from their parents and being placed in foster care during the 1990’s. The reason for the separation of families was due to the crack and cocaine epidemic that was going on throughout the 1990’s. It was in 1999, that there was a high number of 567,000 children coming into the foster care system (Hansel, 2018). During this time, the child welfare system was forced to keep children away from biological parents, terminate parental rights, and keep them in foster care until they were adopted. A new problem arose when children weren’t being adopted.

A lot of children in foster care weren’t being placed in permanent homes. Instead, they were moving from family to family, never finding a permanent home. The child welfare system was having issues finding these kids a forever home causing them to stay in foster care for more than three years. This became a growing issue because no child should be in foster care for that many years. It was for that reason that the Clinton administration created the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The Clinton administration wanted to reduce the time children spent in foster care and wanted to promote a speedy process in getting these children adopted into a family. According to the article, One Million Adoptions Later, over one million children have been adopted in the past 20 years due to this policy.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act has decreased the number of years children spend in foster care. In 1999, 15% of children spent more than 3 years in foster care and in 2017, only 9% of children spent 3 or more years in foster care (Hansel, 2018). This comparison from 1999 and 2017 is great because it shows that the policy is working to help adopt children. The reason why there was an increase in adoptions was because of the 15/22 rule. The 15/22 rule was created to remove and terminate all biological parental rights if a child has been in foster care for 15 out of the 22 months. Biological parental rights would be terminated by a judge if the judge sees that the child has been out of the parents’ custody for a long period. After the judge has terminated the biological parental rights, the child would be free and eligible for adoption and get a speedy process to adoption through the Adoption and Safe Families Act.

Another method used by the Adoption and Safe Families Act that helped children get adopted faster was the financial incentives. This offer was provided by the federal government to individual states. The individual state receives a bonus of $4,000 for each child adopted and $6,000 for special need children adopted from foster care (Roberts, 2002). With this offer, the states pressured adoption agencies to speed up the process of homing children in foster care into permanent homes. According to the article by Dorothy Roberts, the financial incentives seem to work because more children are being adopted by 20% since 1999, in which 42 states received $20 million in incentive bonuses (Roberts, 2002). This method also motivates adoption agencies to speed up the process to home foster children into a permanent home because they get ranked on the percentage of children they get into adoptive homes.

Description of Problem

Every policy isn’t perfect. Some people argue that the Adoption and Safe Families Act is a policy that encourages family separation and terminates parental rights too soon just to get these children free and ready for adoption. The goal and purpose of the Adoption and Safe Families Act is to keep children safe through their permanent homing transition, but are they safe if agencies are homing kids in a financially rewarded offer? The bonuses that are being offered for children getting adopted can cause trouble in keeping families together.

Nevertheless, family preservation fails because most of the time, the biological parents are unfit to care for their child due to neglect and abuse. Congress is justifying the separation of families and using the failure of family preservation to refuse the return of children to their biological parents. Poor families, people of color, and parents with disabilities are the ones that are affected by family separation and kids end up in the foster care system.

People argue that instead of separating families and terminating parental rights, the government should provide resources to help both the parent and the child live a safe life. Some argue that the reason why children are being taken away from their parents is due to their parents being poor and not neglect. The most common reason why reports reported child neglect was due to malnutrition. People living below poverty rate are not neglecting their child of food and basic needs; instead, they are too poor to provide their child with food. A lot of people were furious that there was little to no resources to help poor families. They believed that the child welfare system was targeting poor black and Hispanic families.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act speeds up the process to get children adopted and reduces their chances of going back to their biological family. This policy doesn’t encourage family preservation. Instead, it encourages children to spend less time in foster care and speed up the adoption process. Biological parents have no time to improve themselves before the termination terms. There is no proven fact that children being adopted into a new family is helpful since there is no supervision of child welfare services. It is unknow if children are safe after being adopted into a new family. Parents lose custody of their child due to their financial status.

Policy Description

The Adoption and Safe Families Act is funded by The Children’s Bureau. The Children’s Bureau partners up with each state to improve adoptions, foster care, and child abuse prevention. In order to strengthen the child welfare system and better fund the program, each state must submit an annual plan. The Federal Government provides States with $166 million dollars for incentive payments to help speed up the process of adoptions. The incentive payments really do help speed up the process of adoptions because the adoptions increased and the percentage of children staying in foster care decreased by 29 percent.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act is relevant because it has given children in foster care a permanent home and family. The goal and purpose of this policy is to promote safety while promoting a speedy adoption process. This policy has helped children stay in foster care for a shorter period. It has given children the hope that someday they will get adopted and have a loving and caring family.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act is funded with $43 million annually. The money is used for training and conferences, post-adoption services, recruitment of adoptive homes, and caseworkers. In the year 2014, the administration wanted the funds to go towards helping the children with trauma-informed services to better their emotional and social well-being. Children in foster care go through a traumatic experience. They are placed in a foreign place with other children and then they wait and wonder if they’ll ever be adopted. In some cases, the older children don’t get the chance to get adopted and end up again out of foster care.

Policy Recommendations

It is sad to know that there are 17,000 or more young adults aging out of foster care by the age of 18 or 21 depending on the state law. Young adults who age out of foster care end up homeless, unemployed, pregnant, or in jail. The Adoption and Safe Families Act focuses on children and speeding up the process to get them adopted, but this policy also needs to create a process for older children who might be at risk of aging out. I would suggest that if a child is at risk of aging out, we should be able to provide them with knowledge and useful skills that they can use in the real world. These kids have spent most of their time in foster care. While they’re in foster care, children should learn basic needs such as cooking, cleaning, resume building, communication skills, and job application filing.

In conclusion, the Adoption and Safe Families Act is helpful because it has reduced the time spent in foster care. The number of children being adopted after the policy was created has increased by 29 percent. Their goal was to safely transition children into a new home, and they did. Although, there is some work that still needs to be worked on in order to help those aging out of foster care. It is important to keep advocating for children and help them reduce their stay in foster care by providing more resources.

Work Cited

Dorothy, Roberts. 2002. An Assault on Family Preservation

Emilie Stoltzfus. 2013. Child Welfare: Structure and Funding of the Adoption Incentives Program along with Reauthorization Issues

Federal Laws Related to Permanency. 2011

Hansel Kim. 2018. One Million Adoptions Later. families-act-at-20/32582

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