In 1993, Congress enacted the Family Preservation and Family Support Services Program (P.L. 103-66) which provided additional funding for preventive services and crisis services for children and families at-risk of entering the foster care system. Implementation of these programs required active involvement of a broad community of stakeholders to focus on needs and services for children and families.
In response to major concerns about the extended length of stay and poor outcomes for minority children and the prevalence of using race to determine placements for children in foster care, the Multiethnic Placement Act (P.L. 103-382) and the Interethnic Placement Provisions (P.L. 104-188) were enacted. This legislation forbids the delay or denial of a foster or adoptive placement based solely on the race, color, ethnicity, or national origin of the prospective foster parent, adoptive parent or the child involved. It also compels states to make diligent efforts to recruit and retain foster and adoptive families that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the children for whom foster homes are needed.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) was enacted to ensure that children’s safety would be the paramount concern of all child welfare decision-making and to promote the adoption of children who cannot return safely to their own homes. This law has five key principles: safety is the paramount concern that must guide all child welfare services; foster care is temporary; permanency planning efforts should begin as soon as a child enters care; the child welfare system must focus on results and accountability; and innovative approaches are needed to achieve the goals of safety, permanency, and well-being.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act was enacted on October 7, 2008. This legislation addresses some of the most important needs affecting foster children, including extending federal foster care payments up to 21 years old, providing federal support for relatives caring for foster children, increasing access to foster care and adoption services to Native American tribes, providing foster parents with the right to be heard, and improving the oversight of the health and education needs of children in foster care.
Together, these actions and policies have moved foster care into a new phase. Foster care has become a complex system of services and placements that are designed to ensure that children are safe, permanency is achieved and the child’s social, emotional and intellectual well-being is addressed.