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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release November 19, 1997

PRESIDENT CLINTON SIGNS
THE ADOPTION AND SAFE FAMILIES ACT OF 1997

November 19, 1997

Today, President Clinton signs into law the 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 Administration's Adoption 2002 report. The report takes its name from one of the President's central goals which is, at a minimum, to double the number of adoptions 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. It sets swifter time frames for making permanent placement decisions and terminating parental rights for children. For the first time, states will have financial incentives to increase adoptions. Children with special needs and ongoing medical needs are ensured health care coverage. Federal funds will continue for programs that work to keep families together when it is appropriate and safe to do so.

Ensuring that Children are Safe

Clarifies Reasonable Efforts: As the President proposed, the new law ensures that children's health and safety are the primary concerns of the public child welfare system. It 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: 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 to 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. The Act authorizes $20 million for each of 5 years (FY 1999 to FY 2003) for the bonuses, though eventually the bonuses will be offset by savings in foster care expenses.

Establishes Tighter Time Limits: Children who cannot safely return to their own families often wait far too long in foster care -- typically over 3 years, and many times even longer. 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.

Breaking Down Barriers, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, and Achieving Accountability

Eliminating Obstacles: The new law prohibits delaying or denying adoptions across state or county lines, thereby breaking geographic barriers to adoption.

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. 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.

Emphasizing Results for Children: The new law authorizes HHS, in consultation with states, to develop new measures to track and rate state performance efforts in providing child welfare services to ensure successful results for children.

Recognizing Success: Prior to the bill signing today, HHS recognized 13 awardees for significant achievement in helping both adopted children and those waiting for adoption. Among the awardees are families, foundations, members of the media, and states that have improved the management of child welfare programs.

THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION RECORD ON ADOPTION

November 19, 1997

"I am pleased that the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed historic, bipartisan legislation to promote adoption and improve our nation's child welfare system, giving our nation's most vulnerable children what every child deserves -- a safe and permanent home." -- Statement by President Clinton, November 13, 1997

The Clinton Administration has previously taken several important steps to encourage and increase adoptions and to support the families who choose to open their hearts and their homes to these children. Since taking office in 1993, the President has championed programs that find and assist adoptive families, and has committed his Administration to breaking down barriers, including high adoption costs and complex regulations. These steps include:

MAKING ADOPTION AFFORDABLE FOR FAMILIES. Last year, President Clinton signed into law the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, which provides a $5,000 tax credit to families adopting children, and a $6,000 tax credit for families adopting children with special needs. This provision has alleviated a significant barrier to adoption, helping middle class families for whom adoption may have been prohibitively expensive and making it easier for families to adopt children with special needs. Since President Clinton took office, the number of children with special needs who have been adopted with federal adoption assistance has risen by 60 percent. This year, in signing the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, President Clinton ensured more support for families who adopt children with the $500 Per-Child Tax Credit.

GIVING STATES FLEXIBILITY AND SUPPORT. To test innovative strategies to improve child welfare systems, the Clinton Administration has granted child welfare waivers to California, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon, giving the states more flexibility in tailoring services to meet the needs of children and families. Up to two more states will receive approval for waivers under previous authority. Under the new Adoption and Safe Families Act, HHS will grant up to 10 waivers per year to states. In addition, this Administration has provided states with enhanced technical support and helped improve court operations. In September, HHS awarded 40 demonstration grants totalling $7.9 million, to states, local agencies, courts, private organizations, and others committed to promoting adoption for innovative programs to increase adoptions and reduce the number of children in foster care. To prevent children from entering foster care in the first place, in 1993, the Clinton Administration secured federal funding for the Family Preservation and Family Support Program to help states, local governments and service providers develop effective programs to serve children and families at risk.

BREAKING DOWN RACIAL AND ETHNIC BARRIERS TO ADOPTION. The Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, also ensures 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 which the President signed in 1994.

PROVIDING SUPPORTS FOR CHILD PROTECTION AND ADOPTION. In 1993, President Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act which enables parents to take time off to adopt a child without losing their jobs or health insurance. In addition, the welfare reform bill that the President signed into law maintains the guarantee of child protection and adoption, and does not reduce funds for child welfare, child abuse, foster care and adoption services.

RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS. Through speeches, writings, events and public service announcements, the President and First Lady have promoted the importance and benefits of adoption.