November 2006Vol. 7, No. 8New Federal Legislation Impacts State Child Welfare Practice
Two new Federal laws passed this summer will bring changes to child welfare practice at the State level.
The Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-239) works to improve protections for foster children and to hold States accountable for the safe and timely placement of children across State lines. Among its provisions are requirements for:
- Procedures for orderly and timely interstate placement of children
- Timely completion (within 60 days) of home studies requested by another State, with an additional 15 days allowed under certain circumstances
- Incentive payments to States that meet requirements for completion of home studies within 30 days
- Increasing the required frequency of State caseworker visits to a child who is placed in foster care outside the State in which the child's parents reside
- Providing health and education records to children at no cost when they age out of foster care
- Providing for foster parents' rights (currently, opportunity) to be heard in any proceeding (currently, review or hearing) regarding their foster child
- Consideration of out-of-State placements in permanency hearings, case plans, and case reviews
Another new law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-248), establishes a comprehensive national system for sex offender registration and community notification. States are required to conduct national fingerprint-based criminal records checks and checks of State child abuse and neglect registries for all prospective foster or adoptive parent placements. The checks must be conducted on any adult living in the home and must cover the previous 5 years. Under certain circumstances, some States may opt out of this requirement temporarily. However, as of October 1, 2008, all States must be in compliance.
The Walsh Act also requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a national registry of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect and to conduct a study on the feasibility of establishing data collection standards for the national registry.
The Administration for Children and Families issued an Information Memorandum that more fully explains the Adam Walsh Act, including the opt-out provisions. It also includes the full text of the new law:
More information may be accessed through the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
The National Conference of State Legislatures recently released State Child Welfare Legislation 2005. The 48-page report provides an overview of new State child welfare laws, including those that address kinship care, case planning, education of foster children, and children's exposure to drug manufacture. An appendix contains citations and summaries of the new laws.