What Is the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act?

Adoptive couple sit with their adopted Haitian children as the children become American citizens.
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The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, Public Law 96-272 (AACWA) focuses on family preservation efforts to help keep families together and children out of foster care or other out-of-home placement options. Enacted in 1980, this law also focuses on family reunification or adoption if a child is removed from the home. An adoption subsidy reimbursed by the federal government is also provided through this law for special needs children.

Other Points or Goals of The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

  • The law brought about regular judicial reviews for children in foster care with an emphasis on returning children home as soon as possible.
  • Defined special needs children as those who can't return home, has a condition that the child can't be placed without assistance, and has not been able to be placed in an adoptive home without assistance in the past.
  • Prevents children from being placed out-of-home by showing that "reasonable efforts" have been made to keep a child home.
  • A plan must be determined regarding a child's future within 18 months after being placed in foster care, whether the plan is family reunification, adoption, or continue on in foster care.
  • In order to receive Federal matching funds, States have to show that they have been making "reasonable efforts" to keep children out of the system and with their family and return children that have been removed as soon as possible.

    History of the AACWA

    The AACWA amended titles IV-B and XX of the Social Security Act. It provides a structure for states to make foster care maintenance payments and adoption assistance payments and receive federal subsidies. It also provides matching funds for state social services.

    Further changes to IV-B of the Social Security Act were made by the Family Preservation and Support Services Program Act of 1993 (Public Law 103-66).

    It encouraged states to use funds to develop services aimed at keeping families together. It was aimed more at prevention for at-risk children and families.

    Many more changes were introduced in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 with an aim to promote the adoption of children who were in foster care. It renamed the Family Preservation and Support Services Program as the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF).

    The Promoting Safe and Stable Families Amendments of 2001 amended its predecessor and title IV-B, subpart 2 of the Social Security Act. It provided for infant safe haven programs, mentoring of the children of incarcerated parents, and established an educational voucher program for those who had aged out of foster care.

    Adoption incentive payments were reauthorized in 2003 with the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003. The Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 reauthorized the PSSF.

    The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act in 2011 amended IV-B of the Social Security Act to extend the Child and Family Services Program through FY 2016.

    Sources:

    Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 P.L. 96-272 - Child Welfare Information Gateway.

    Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/majorfedlegis.pdf.