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For far too many years, children were removed from the home and placed in foster care. For some they would remain there until they aged out. For others they returned to homes that were dangerous due to the reluctance to take a child away from the parents, even if they were bad parents. We have clear records of the history of children in our country placed into orphanages only to be turned out at 18 to fend for themselves. Parents were either non-existent, or willingly gave their children up. As a child aged, it was less likely that they were adopted. (Crosson-Tower, 2010, pp. 6 & 7) In 1997, President Clinton signed into act the Adoption and Safe Families Act to help rectify the current child welfare laws. This act provided specific guidelines to case workers and other agencies to help children and families with reunification as well as timely adoptions and continuing supportive services. (Adame & Pierce, 2000) The main goal was to process the children in either direction as quickly as possible and leave no child without hope of family.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997
The purpose of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) is to limit the amount of time a child spends in foster care. The goal is to process children through the system as quickly and timely as possible. If it is not possible to place the child back into the home through reunification, the ASFA ensures that no child is left in foster care longer than necessary. In the past children were taken out of the home and left in foster care indefinitely or until they aged out. The ASFA corrects this problem. Additional, through ASFA, The Family Preservation and Support Services Program know known as “Promoting Safe and Stable Families” allow funding to help with research, training, technical assistance, and funding for Native American tribes. Most importantly, through AFSA, the children and their needs take precedent over all else. (DePanfilis & Salus, 2003) Additional funding is provided for counseling services, reunification services, substance abuse treatment, mental health, domestic violence, and temporary childcare. (Adame & Pierce, 2000) Funds are also available for promotion and awareness of child abuse and child sexual abuse as a preventative action to halt or slow down child abuse. In addition to Federal funding, every state is allowed additional funds “to encourage participation in time-limited reunification for families.” (Summary of The Adoption And Safe Families Act of 1997)
For years, children that were taken from the home because of child abuse or neglect were typically placed in foster care. Some of these children never returned home nor were they adopted. In an attempt to decrease the amount of children falling through the cracks of child welfare services, the House of Representatives and Congress restructured the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 to include prevention services and reunification services as well as timely adoptions. In 1997, President Clinton signed the new act into law. (Adame & Pierce, 2000) (Summary of The Adoption And Safe Families Act of 1997)
For many years in this country the mindset was that, a parent has a right to raise a child as they see fit. It was not the custom for child protective services to remove a child from the home. When such cases happened the child had two choices, returning to a potentially dangerous home, or spending critical child hood years bouncing from one foster care home after another. Some of these homes were just as unsafe as their own home. Through AFSA, States are requried to make “reasonable efforts” to place a child up for adoption by terminating the parental rights if the child has been in foster care for less than two years. (Summary of The Adoption And Safe Families Act of 1997) (Adame & Pierce, 2000) Further changes in the law pertained to reunitifcation efforts. In the past, reuniting the families was problematic as there were no services available for these families. As a result, when the parents felt they were ready to take back their child, it was allowed. Case management did not extend to in home prevention services to ensure the family was meeting the Childs needs. Many ended up back into the system, or never made it to their next birthday. (DePanfilis & Salus, 2003) AFSA ensures that all States and agencies adhere to the provisions and gives funding for prevention, intervention, including reunification, as well as pre and post adoptive services. Incentive funds for moving children forward in a timely manner are included through AFSA. (Summary of The Adoption And Safe Families Act of 1997)
One of the most important changes resulting from AFSA is in regards to special needs children. Any child placed in the system that has limited or special needs are guaranteed health care coverage by their prospective states. The purpose is to help foster care families or adoptive families deal with the cost of medical care, or educational care associated with a special needs child. In years past, many of these children were abandoned by families and the system, because they were not adequate candidates for adoption. Foster care families would struggle with the costs of caring for a child with special needs. In order for a state to be eligible to receive funds through AFSA, “they are required to provide health care coverage to special needs children who are going through the adoption process.” (Summary of The Adoption And Safe Families Act of 1997) Through this funding, many children who have special needs, including mental and behavioral problems are more likely to receive an adoptive family. Without this provision for funding, many who are seen as problematic would have few options for a healthy home and family environment. (Adame & Pierce, 2000)
Today through AFSA children have a chance to live normal healthy lives. Through AFSA they are no longer forgotten by the system. They have more than just two options, they can go home with the help of support services as a followup to reunification. If that is not an option that is in the best interest of the child, timely adotptive services are provided. These services enable a child to find a permenant loving home. They are not abandon by the parents, nor by the system.
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