and Safe Families Act of 1997, PL 105-89
an agreement November 13, 1997, on foster care and adoption
reform legislation and passed the "Adoption and Safe Families
Act of 1997." November 19th, the bill was signed by the
President, Public Law 105-89 (HR 327, amending HR 867).
The act includes,
in Section 305, a three year extension of Subpart 2 of
Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, formerly known
as the the Family Preservation and Support Services Act
and now renamed as "Promoting Safe and Stable Families."
Subpart 2 of Title IV-B, Congress also extended for three
more years the federal grant program to improve the courts'
handling of child abuse and neglect cases. Section 305(a)(2)
of the bill extends the $10,000,000 annual set aside for
the court improvement grants through federal fiscal year
2001. Section 305(a)(3) extends the program itself (set
forth in Section 13712 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation
Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. 670 note) for the three additional
Act of 1997 - Amends the Social Security Act to provide
that in cases of aggravated circumstances
(including abuse, abandonment, and torture), the States
are not required to first make reasonable efforts to retain
children in their own homes as a prerequisite to placing
a child in foster care.
(Sec. 3) Requires
a State to initiate or join proceedings to terminate parental
rights for children under age ten who have been in foster
care under State responsibility for 18 months.
4) Directs the Secretary to make adoption incentive payment
grants to States for the number of foster child adoptions
and special needs adoptions that exceed the base number
of such adoptions for the fiscal year.
Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985
(Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act) and the Congressional Budget
Act of 1974, with respect to enactment of appropriations
to the Department of Health and Human Services for adoption
incentive payments, to prescribe cap adjustments (up to
a ceiling of $15 million) for new budget authority. Sets
forth congressional procedural guidelines for making such
(Sec. 5) Provides
for earlier status reviews and permanency hearings, notice
of reviews and hearings, and opportunity to be heard for
foster parents and pertinent relatives.
(Sec. 7) Mandates
State documentation of the steps taken to find and finalize
permanent child placement.
(Sec. 8) Requires
the Secretary to: (1) report and make recommendations
to specified congressional committees on the extent to
which children in foster care are placed in the care of
a relative (kinship care); and (2) establish an advisory
panel to review such report.
(Sec. 9) Authorizes
use of the parent locator service in termination of parental
Instructs the Secretary to: (1) develop a set of outcome
measures to assess the performance of States in operating
child protection programs; and (2) to report annually
to the Congress on the performance of each State on each
Increases from 10 to 15 the authorized number of State
child protection demonstration projects, and mandates
that at least one of such projects approved after October
1, 1997, address kinship care.
Prescribes guidelines for technical assistance to help
States and local communities reach their targets for increased
numbers of adoptions and alternative permanent placements
for children in foster care (including development of
programs that place children into pre-adoptive families
without waiting for termination of parental rights).
Instructs the Secretary to report to certain congressional
committees regarding the scope of substance abuse in the
child welfare population, and the outcomes resulting from
the services provided to such population.
Modifies the eligibility criteria for Independent Living
Services. (Sec. 16) Expresses the sense of the Congress
that, to the greatest extent practicable, all equipment
and products purchased with funds made available under
this Act should be American-made.
Amends the Social Security Act to provide that State plans
for foster care and adoption assistance may include, at
State option, procedures for criminal records checks and
checks of a State's child abuse registry for any prospective
foster or adoptive parent, or employee of a child-care
institution before a child's placement.
Expresses the sense of the Congress that the States should
have in effect laws and procedures for a chronically ill
or near-death parent to designate, without surrendering
parental rights, a standby guardian for the minor children,
whose authority would take effect upon the parent's death,
mental incapacity, or physical debilitation (with the
The new bill
redefines "reasonable efforts" to (a) emphasize children's
health and safety, (b) require states to specify situations
when services to prevent foster placement and reunify
famliies are not required, and (d) reaffirm certain specific
situations of severe inflicted harm to children (already
specified in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment
Act) where reasonable efforts to preserve families are
LANGUAGE ADDED TO CASE PLAN AND REVIEW REQUIREMENTS
language concerning case plans and six month reviews is
amended to ensure that the issue of child safety is specifically
FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
required to initiate or join termination of parental rights
proceedings for children who have been in foster care
for 15 of the most recent 22 months. In certain cases,
states are required to initiate such proceedings upon
placement (i.e., where the parent committed murder, involuntary
manslaughter, or felony assault resulting in serious bodily
injury of a sibling). Exceptions to this requirement include
(a) at the option of the state, the child is cared for
by a relative, (b) the state agency has documented that
there is a compelling reason that filing a termination
petition is not in the best interest of the child, and
(c) the state has not delivered services it deems necessary
for the child's safe return, in cases where reunification
efforts are required (see above).
calculating whether 15 months have passed since the child's
entry into foster care (and a termination petition is
therefore required), the state is now to refer to the
earliest of the following two dates: the date of the first
judicial finding that the child has been subjected to
abuse or neglect or 60 days after the child is removed
example, if the adjudication of child abuse or neglect
takes place one month after the child's removal from home,
the state will have 16 months after the child's removal
to file a termination petition (or join a termination
proceeding filed by others) after the child's removal.
(Of course, this time limit will not apply if an exception
applies, as described in the above paragraph.) For example,
if the adjudication takes longer than 60 days from the
child's removal, the state would have 15 months plus 60
days after the child's removal from home to file or join
in the termination petition. State legislatures are expected
to enact authorizing amendments in their next legislative
session. The bill specifies a transition period to put
this requirement into effect.
AND OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD FOR FOSTER PARENTS, PREADOPTIVE
PARENTS, AND CARETAKER RELATIVES
required to provide notice and the opportunity to be heard
-- to foster parents, preadoptive parents, and relatives
caring for children -- in all reviews and hearings. This
does not require, however, that foster parents, preadoptive
parents, and relative caretakers be made parties to the
review or hearing.
TO ADDRESS AGENCY EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE PERMANENCY
permanency plan for a child is adoption or placement in
another permanent home, case plans are to document steps
the agency is taking to secure such permanent home.
AND MORE DECISIVE PERMANENCY HEARINGS
In place of
the current requirement that states hold "dispositional"
hearings within 18 months after placement of the child
in foster care, the bill (a) renames the hearing a "permanency"
hearing, (b) tightens the statutory language to require
that the hearing includes a decision whether to return
the child home, initiate termination proceedings, or place
the child in another permanent living arrangement, and
(c) requires that the hearing take place within 12 months
of the child's "original placement."
12 month period begins to run not from the time of the
child's actual removal from home, but rather from the
earliest of the following: a judicial finding of abuse
or neglect OR 60 days after the child's removal from home.
The 12 month period for the permanency hearing begins
to run at the same time the 15 month period for initiating
termination of parental rights proceedings begins to run.
FAMILY REUNIFICATION SERVICES
to reunify families funded under Subpart 2 of Title IV-B
of the Social Security Act are to extend no more than
15 months after placement. (The time period begins to
run at the same time as the time period for termination
petitions and permanency hearings.) These services include
counseling, substance abuse treatment services, domestic
violence services, temporary child care and related services
including crisis nurseries, and transportation for such
AND SAFE FAMILIES ACT OF 1997
Reasonable Efforts and Safety Requirements for Foster
Care and Adoption Placements
Amends existing law to emphasize the paramount concern
of a State plan for foster care and adoption assistance
shall be the health and safety of the child. Efforts
to preserve and reunify the family shall not include certain
parents if they pose a serious risk
to a child's health or safety. State courts should
exercise their discretion to protect the health and safety
of children in individual cases and not use this new law
as an excuse.
Includes the safety of the child in State case planning
and review system requirements.
Outlines the conditions under which
a State should terminate parent's rights and initiate
selection of a qualified adoptive family for certain children
in foster care or under State responsibility.
Allows the Federal Parent Locator Service to be used by
child welfare services for enforcement of child custody
or visitation orders.
Requires States to include criminal record checks for
prospective foster and adoptive parents in developing
plans for foster care and adoption assistance.
Requires States to document their efforts toward adoption
or placement in another permanent home in a case plan.
Incentives for Providing Permanent Families for Children
award an adoption incentive grant to an incentive-eligible
State who meet specified criteria relating to the number
of foster children and special needs children, including
State health insurance coverage based on assistance agreements.
Would financially assist States,
local communities, and the courts reach their targets
for increased numbers of adoptions and alternative permanent
placements for children in foster care.
Requires a State plan to use cross-jurisdictional
resources to effect timely adoptive or permanent placements
for waiting children. Denies Federal assistance eligibility
where a State has impeded the placement of a child for
adoption outside of the jurisdiction with responsibility
for handling the case.
the Comptroller General to study and report to the Congress
on improved procedures to facilitate the interjurisdictional
adoption and permanent placement of children.
Directs the Secretary to:(1)
develop a set of outcome measures for rating State placements
for adoption and foster care, and to report annually thereon
to the Congress; and (2) develop a performance-based incentive
payment system. Title III: Additional Improvements and
Reforms - Authorizes up to ten State child welfare demonstration
projects in each of FY 1998 through 2002. These projects
would be designed to address: (1) delays to adoptive placements
for children in foster care; (2) parental substance abuse
problems; and (3) kinship care. Requires all State demonstration
project to provide health insurance coverage for certain
children with special needs. Requires the Secretary to
consider the effect of a State demonstration project upon
specified court Orders concerning the State's non-compliance
with certain Federal requirements for child welfare services
and foster care.