Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

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P.L. 96-272

Amended Titles IV-B and XX of the Social Security Act

For a summary of the text visit:|TOM:/bss/d096query.html|

Reasons Bill Initiated

  • Initiated in response to discontent with the public child welfare system.
  • Problem of Foster Care "Drift": the sense of impermanence in foster homes; and concerns about children placed in multiple foster placements over an extended period of time.


  • To prevent unnecessary separation of children from families.
  • To protect the autonomy of the family.
  • To shift support of Federal government away from foster care alone and towards placement prevention and reunification.
  • To promote the return of children to their families when feasible.
  • To encourage adoption when it is in the child's best interest.
  • To improve the quality of care and services.
  • To reduce the number of children in foster care.
  • To reduce the duration of a child's stay in foster care.

Services Provided/Measures Taken

  • Required States to make adoption assistance payments, which take into account the circumstances of the adopting parents and the child, to parents who adopt a child who is AFDC-eligible and is a child with special needs.
  • Defined a child with special needs as a child who:
    • Cannot be returned to the parent's home;
    • Has a special condition such that the child cannot be placed without providing assistance; and
    • Has not been able to be placed without assistance.
  • Required, as a condition of receiving Federal foster care matching funds, that States make "reasonable efforts" to prevent removal of the child from the home, and return those who have been removed as soon as possible.
  • Required participating States to establish reunification and preventive programs for all in foster care.
  • The State must place a child in the least restrictive setting and, if the child will benefit, one that is close to the parent's home.
  • Court or agency must review the status of a child in any non-permanent setting every 6 months to determine what is in the best interest of the child. Most emphasis is placed on returning the child home as soon as possible.
  • Court or administrative body must determine the child's future status, whether it is a return to parents, adoption, or continued foster care, within 18 months after initial placement into foster care.

Credits: National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information

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