On Monday, September 29, President Obama signed HR 4980 (PL 113-183, read the CWLA summary) the bill extends, expands and reauthorizes the adoption incentive program and extends the family connections grants by one year through FY 2014. It was critical that the President signed the bill before the end of the fiscal year so the funds could be released.

The legislation creates new requirements on state child welfare agencies (and local agencies and service providers) and results in new guidance and directives to and by HHS, among them are: it directs HHS to come up with a formula that will help capture the savings states are realizing as the Title IV-E adoption assistance program gradually expands to provide federal funds for all special needs adoptions; there are new state plan requirements on policies, screenings and services for victims of sex trafficking; states are directed to locate and respond to children who have run away from foster care including plans to report their absences; includes new data reporting in the adoption and foster care analysis and reporting system (AFCARS); establishes a “reasonable and prudent parent standard’ for the child’s participation in age or developmentally appropriate extracurricular activities; limits to children age 16 or older the case plan classification of being placed in a planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) status and requires documentation and determination requirements for youth 16 or older with an APPLA status; gives children age 14 and older authority to participate in the development of their own case plans; and require agencies to provide foster children leaving foster care with key information and documents including a copy of their birth certificate, Social Security card, health insurance information, copy of medical records, and a driver’s license or equivalent state-issued identification card.