Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
House agreed to Senate amendment with amendment (11/13/1997)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Reasonable Efforts and Safety Requirements for

Foster Care and Adoption Placements

Title II: Incentives for Providing Permanent Families for

Children

Title III: Additional Improvements and Reforms

Title IV: Miscellaneous

Title V: Effective Date

Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 - Title I: Reasonable Efforts and Safety Requirements for Foster Care and Adoption Placements - Amends title IV part E (Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) of the Social Security Act (SSA) to emphasize that, in meeting the "reasonable efforts" requirement of family preservation and reunification, the paramount concern of a State plan for foster care and adoption assistance shall be the health and safety of the child. States that reasonable efforts to preserve and reunify the family shall not be required on behalf of certain parents, including those who have murdered or committed felony assault against another child, or who would otherwise pose a serious risk to a child's health or safety. Declares that nothing in such Act shall be construed as precluding State courts from exercising their discretion to protect the health and safety of children in individual cases, including cases other than those described in the Act.

(Sec. 102) Includes the safety of the child in State case planning and review system requirements.

(Sec. 103) Delineates circumstances compelling a State to file a parental rights termination petition and concurrently initiate selection of a qualified adoptive family for certain children in foster care or under State responsibility.

(Sec. 105) Makes the Federal Parent Locator Service available to child welfare services for enforcement of child custody or visitation orders.

(Sec. 106) Requires State plans for foster care and adoption assistance to provide procedures for criminal records checks for prospective foster and adoptive parents.

(Sec. 107) Requires a case plan for a child for whom the State's goal is adoption or placement in another permanent home to document State agency efforts to accomplish that goal.

Title II: Incentives for Providing Permanent Families for Children - Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award an adoption incentive grant to an incentive-eligible State meeting specified criteria whose number of foster child or special needs adoptions for a fiscal year exceeds a base number calculated according to a specified formula. Includes among such criteria the provision of State health insurance coverage for children with special needs for whom an adoption assistance agreement is in effect between the State and the adoptive parents.

(Sec. 201) Authorizes the Secretary to provide technical assistance to States, local communities, and the courts to reach their targets for increased numbers of adoptions and alternative permanent placements for children in foster care. Authorizes appropriations for FY 1998 through 2000.

(Sec. 202) Requires a State plan for child welfare services to contain assurances for State plan development using cross-jurisdictional resources to effect timely adoptive or permanent placements for waiting children. Denies Federal assistance eligibility where a State has impeded the placement of a child for adoption outside of the jurisdiction with responsibility for handling the case.

Instructs the Comptroller General to study and report to the Congress on improved procedures to facilitate the interjurisdictional adoption and permanent placement of children.

(Sec. 203) Directs the Secretary to: (1) develop a set of outcome measures for rating State placements for adoption and foster care, and to report annually thereon to the Congress; and (2) develop a performance-based incentive payment system.

Title III: Additional Improvements and Reforms - Authorizes the Secretary to authorize up to ten State child welfare demonstration projects in each of FY 1998 through 2002. Requires the Secretary to consider demonstration project proposals designed to address: (1) barriers that result in delays to adoptive placements for children in foster care; (2) the impact of parental substance abuse problems upon the placement of children; and (3) kinship care.

Prohibits the Secretary from authorizing a State demonstration project if it fails to provide health insurance coverage for certain children with special needs. Requires the Secretary to consider the effect of a State demonstration project upon specified court orders concerning the State's non-compliance with certain Federal requirements for child welfare services and foster care and adoption assistance.

(Sec. 302) Changes the mandatory annual dispositional hearing for a child in foster care to an annual permanency planning hearing.

(Sec. 303) Requires the Secretary to report to a child welfare advisory panel on the extent to which children in foster care are placed in kinship care, and subsequently to certain congressional committees, following such panel's review and comment on the report.

(Sec. 304) Mandates that independent living programs be designed, among others, for children with respect to whom foster care maintenance payments are no longer being made because the child has accumulated assets of up to $5,000 which are otherwise regarded as resources in determining eligibility for Federal foster care benefits.

(Sec. 305) Authorizes appropriations for family preservation and support services for FY 1999 through 2001, including family reunification, adoption promotion and support services.

(Sec. 306) Mandates that State plans for foster care and adoption assistance provide health insurance coverage for children with special needs.

(Sec. 307) Provides for the continuation of eligibility for adoption assistance payments on behalf of children with special needs whose initial adoption has been dissolved.

(Sec. 308) Requires State plans for foster care and adoption assistance to incorporate standards to ensure quality services for children in foster care.

Title IV: Miscellaneous - Expresses the sense of the Congress that the States should have procedures in effect for a chronically ill or near-death parent, without surrendering parental rights, to designate a standby guardian for the minor children, to take effect on the parent's death, mental incapacity, or physical debilitation (with consent).

(Sec. 404) Revises requirements governing the Contingency Fund for State Welfare Programs. Specifies a reduction in appropriations to offset certain increases in State remittances. Instructs the Secretary to submit recommendations to the Congress for improving the Fund's operation.

(Sec. 405) Instructs the Secretary to report to certain congressional committees regarding the scope of substance abuse in the child welfare population, and the outcomes resulting from the services provided to such population.

(Sec. 406) Expresses the sense of the Congress that, to the greatest extent practicable, all equipment and products purchased with funds made available under this Act should be American-made.

Title V: Effective Date - Sets forth the effective date of this Act.