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November 19, 1997

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Adoption and Safe Families Act

We have put in place...the building blocks of giving all of our children what should be their fundamental right, a chance at a decent safe home; an honorable, orderly, positive upbringing; a chance to live our their dreams and their God-given capacities.

President Clinton,
November 19, 1997


Today, President Clinton signed into law the landmark Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 to help thousands of children waiting in foster care move more quickly into safe and permanent homes. This overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation was based in large part on the recommendations of the President's "Adoption 2002" report. The report takes its name from one of the President's central goals -- to at least double the number of children adopted or permanently placed to 54,000 by the year 2002. The Act makes sweeping changes in federal law on adoption and foster care enacted in 1980. The new law makes clear that the health and safety of children must be the paramount concerns of state child welfare services. The Adoption and Safe Families Act also includes the following:

Ensuring that Children are Safe

Clarifies Reasonable Reunification Efforts: As the President proposed, the new law ensures that children's health and safety are the paramount concerns of the public child welfare system. The law clarifies that there are instances when states are not required to make "reasonable efforts" to keep children with their parents, such as when a parent has been convicted of murdering another child or a child has been abandoned, tortured, or chronically abused.

Doubling the Number of Children Adopted or Permanently Placed by 2002

Creates Financial Incentives to Increase Adoptions: The new law contains the President's plan to offer a financial bonus to states that increase the number of children who are adopted from the public foster care system. These incentives will help double the number of children adopted. For every additional child adopted, a state will receive $4,000, with an additional $2,000 paid for each child with special needs.

Establishes Tighter Time Limits -- Setting Swifter Time Frames for Making Permanent Placement Decisions: Under the new law, permanency hearings will now be held no later than 12 months after a child enters foster care, 6 months earlier than under previous law, and states must initiate termination of parental rights proceedings, except in specified circumstances, for any child who has been in foster care for 15 of the previous 22 months.

Promoting Safe and Stable Families

Ensuring Health Care for Children with Special Needs and Providing Supportive Services: The new law ensures that children with special needs keep health insurance coverage when they are adopted, either through Medicaid or through the new children's health program included in the Balanced Budget. In addition, the new law reauthorizes the Family Preservation and Family Support Services Program, renamed Promoting Safe and Stable Families, which provides services to strengthen families before crises occur and to ensure safe, stable homes for children who return to their families.

Building on the President's Record

Since taking office in 1993, President Clinton has taken important steps to encourage and increase adoptions and to support families who choose to adopt. The President has committed his Administration to breaking down barriers, including high adoption costs and complex regulations. Among these efforts, last year, the President signed into law a $5,000 tax credit to families adopting children, and a $6,000 tax credit for families adopting children with special needs. The President also ensured that the adoption process is free from discrimination and delays on the basis of race, culture and ethnicity by strengthening the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act. And the very first piece of legislation the President signed into law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, allows parents to take time off to adopt a child without losing their jobs or health insurance.

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