The Adoption and Safe Families Act
What does it mean for adoption?
On November 19, 1997, the President signed into law the Adoption and
Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89), designed to promote adoption
and support families. The Child Welfare League of America was in the
forefront of the advocacy efforts to secure passage of this legislation.
Several of the most important adoption provisions include:
- Expansion of Health Care Coverage to
Non-IV-E Eligible Children with Special Health Care Needs. The
new act requires states to provide health insurance coverage for more
children with special needs who are receiving state subsidies. The
hope is that HHS will define eligibility and the package of basic
services as broadly as possible. As currently defined in the Act,
some children usually considered to have special needs--such as sibling
groups and older children--may be excluded from this expansion of
medical care since they may not have special health care needs.
- Adoption Incentive Payments to States.
The Act authorizes $20 million for each of FY 1999-2003 for payments
to eligible states that increase the number of children adopted. The
incentives are for the adoption of children in foster care, with a
$4,000 incentive when the child has no special needs, and $6,000 when
the child has special needs. The hope is that states will use the
bonuses to provide for adequate staffing and sufficient staff training
to ensure high quality adoptive placements. Otherwise, the pressure
to increase the number of adoptions may lead to an increase in the
number of disruptions.
- Continuation of Eligibility for the Federal
Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Subsidy for Children Whose Adoption
is Disrupted. Any child who was receiving a federal adoption subsidy
on or after October 1, 1997, shall continue to remain eligible for
the subsidy if the adoption is disrupted or if the adoptive parents
die. While this provision will impact a relatively small number of
children, it is an exceedingly important provision for those particular
children and families.
- Requirement that States to Document Efforts
to Secure Adoption for Children. States are now required to make
reasonable efforts and document child-specific efforts to place a
child for adoption. The law also clarifies that reasonable efforts
to reunify a child with his or her family and reasonable efforts to
secure an adoptive family for a child, if needed, can go on concurrently.
States are already in the process of implementing this complex legislation.
On January 8, 1998, the HHS Administration for Children and Families
(ACF) issued initial guidance to states in the form of a Program Instruction
for implementing the new act. Some provisions became effective immediately
upon enactment; others, which may require state legislative changes,
will not go into effect until after the close of the next regular sessions
of the various state legislatures.
For additional information on the Adoption and Safe Families Act of
1997, please call 202/638-2952 and ask for the Public Policy Division.
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