Home Issues + Resources Adoption Role of Child Welfare Systems in Finding Children Permanent Homes

Role of Child Welfare Systems in Finding Children Permanent Homes

When children cannot return home to their families, child welfare systems must move quickly to find them alternative permanent homes.

When the situation at a child’s home makes it inappropriate for the child to be reunified with his or her family, the state must make the child legally eligible for adoption by terminating the parents’ rights. Federal law requires states to take this step for children who have spent 15 out of 22 consecutive months in foster care, unless there is a documented reason not to do so.

But in failing child welfare systems, there are many roadblocks that stand in the way of adoption for too many children in foster care — and they end up trapped in systems that are neither designed to provide long-term care nor capable of doing so. Common problems include:

  • High caseloads among social workers and poor planning for the needs of individual children.
  • Failure to terminate parental rights in a timely fashion (required for children to be eligible for adoption) when reunification is no longer an option.
  • Failure to recruit adoptive families — and to find appropriate adoptive homes for children once they are legally eligible.
  • Failure to appropriately screen and train prospective adoptive families to ensure that children will be safe and well-cared-for, and to minimize the instances in which adoptions are disrupted.
  • Failure to identify and train adoptive families for children regarded as “hard to place” — including older children, children in large sibling groups, children with special needs, and children of color.
  • Lack of financial support and post-adoptive services for adoptive families.

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