Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Adoption and Safe Families Act

An example of a student descriptive paper.
            Within all classes, races, and statuses there is present the problem of child abuse and neglect. For decades now professionals and citizens have been debating over how to manage this problem and protect the children affected. While now most people agree that there should be some intervention, some are still hesitant about allowing the government to intervene in private family life. Among those who do believe government has a right to intervene, there is still question about how.  Some argue that the best solution is to remove children from homes deemed to be damaging to their welfare. This is called out-of-home placement. Others argue for family preservation. With this model, services are provided to the family in order to better care for children as to prevent out-of-home placement or to speed reunification. One attempt to reconcile these differing viewpoints is the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.
            In addition to considering the human cost of not implementing such a program, it is important to evaluate the financial cost of such a program. According to the Child Welfare League of America, the Adoption and Safe Families Act allowed a budget of three hundred and five million dollars for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program for the fiscal year of 2001. This program was previously known as the Family Preservation and Support Services Program. While a portion of this budget goes toward research and evaluation, it also includes reunification services such as counseling and substance abuse treatment.
            Also according to the Child Welfare League of America, the Adoption and Safe Families Act authorized twenty million dollars for each fiscal year between 1999 and 2003 for states that increase their adoptions from the previous fiscal years. This portion of the act is meant to give the incentive of encouraging adoption which aids in the goal of permanency placement. Permanency as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act is meant to give children stability and permanent homes. Also as part of reaching this goal, the act established a timeline for terminating parental rights and determining permanent placement of the child.
            It is difficult to put a number on the amount of people affected or helped by the Adoption and Safe Families Act. This act applies to families who are going through crisis or have been referred to a child welfare agency. According to the U.S. Children’s Bureau (2012), more than two hundred fifty thousand children enter foster care each year. Although these children are the ones most affected by the act, their entire families are affected by the policies of the act. The people that get services through the Adoption and Safe Families Act receive these services as part of the foster care and reunification or adoption process. These services have been integrated into such systems and some programs such as substance abuse treatment may be mandated in order for a parent to prevent termination of rights and to initiate reunification.
            In order to determine how well the Adoption and Safe Families Act is performing, one must consider his or her own perception of success. According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (2002), foster care adoptions increased greatly from 1996 to 2000. They also estimate that the Adoption and Safe Families Act resulted in an additional thirty-four thousand adoptions from 1998 to 2000. This means a large increase in the number of children in permanent homes rather than foster care placements. If one believes in the importance of permanent placements, the program was certainly successful through that time period. Others believe that the immediacy in finding permanent placements has led to the destruction of families. Regardless of one’s own opinion, the Adoption and Safe Families Act led to great change in the child welfare system, particularly the areas of foster care and adoption.

Child Welfare League of America. Summary of the adoption and safe families act of 1997. Retrieved from http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/asfapl105-89summary.htm.
U.S. Children’s Bureau (2012). Meet the children. Retrieved from http://www.adoptuskids.org/meet-the-children.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (2002). Foster care facts. Retrieved from http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/FactOverview/foster.html.

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