On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EST, CWLA invites you to hear about a new suite of reports being released by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Research and Evaluation at US DHHS on findings from 25 years of the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) and transracial adoptions. 

Register here.


Researched approximately 25 years after MEPA’s implementation, this suite of reports uses data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and child welfare monitoring visits, supplemented by interviews with adoption officials and stakeholders in three states, to explore trends in transracial adoption as well as attitudes about MEPA of those involved in making adoptive placements. Several products have been produced from this research: a research summary providing a short overview of the research as a whole; a graphical factsheet on trends in adoption overall and transracial adoption in particular; an analysis of statistical data on racial disproportionality in adoptive placements; a report examining the attitudes about MEPA and race issues in foster and adoptive placements based on interviews with child welfare professionals in 3 states; and a qualitative analysis of the content of states’ diligent recruitment plans laying out their efforts to comply with MEPA’s requirement to recruit foster and adoptive parents who reflect the racial and ethnic composition of their foster care population.


In 1994, the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act, referred to as MEPA (PL 103-382), sought to reduce the number of minority children who enter and remain in foster care by prohibiting federally funded foster care and adoption agencies from delaying or denying placement decisions “solely” on the basis of race, color, or national origin of either adoptive or foster parents or the children. Another provision required diligently recruiting racially or ethnically diverse foster and adoptive parents reflective of the children needing foster care and adoptive homes.  


In 1996, Congress revised the 1994 law (PL104-188) by removing the word “solely” so that it now reads “denying a placement on the basis of race, color, nationality.” This amended version is now called the interethnic placement act or “IEPA.” The amended law specified a penalty for violations of this state plan requirement, equal to 2 percent of federal Title IV-E funds for a first violation, 3 percent for a second violation, and 5 percent for three or more violations. Private agencies that violate the interethnic provisions are required to pay back any Federal funds received. Under the current law, private individuals may continue to seek relief in U.S. district court. 


In 2003, HHS issued ACYF-CB-IM-03-01, signed by Assistant Secretary Children and Families Wade Horn, said in part: “This Information Memorandum reiterates and confirms my long standing and unequivocal support for the letter of, and spirit underlying, the Multiethnic Placement Act, as amended by the MEPA (Section 1808). This administration will not tolerate discrimination in foster care and adoption placement decisions and will enforce Section 1808’s provisions to the extent of the law.”


The law and its enforcement has had its critics who feel that not enough was or is being done to prevent these foster care placements, not enough was or is being done to recruit black families to adopt, and some agencies feel restricted in their training and support services they can provide to potential adoptive families. 


In a year when the country is re-visiting racial equity issues and past policy and practices, the new research is very timely in this debate.