73 J. Kan. Bar Assn. 1, 38-41 (2004). Adoptions and Safe Families Act: Reframe.

AuthorBy Sarah Sargent

Kansas Bar Journals

Volume 73.

73 J. Kan. Bar Assn. 1, 38-41 (2004).

Adoptions and Safe Families Act: Reframe

Kansas Bar Journal73 J. Kan. Bar Assn. 1, 38-41 (2004)Adoptions and Safe Families Act: ReframeBy Sarah SargentI. Introduction

The following article is a "counterpoint" to an article by Thomas Young and Jae Lee entitled "Responding to the Lament of Invisible Children: Achieving Meaningful Permanency for Foster Children," printed in the June/July 2003 edition of the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association. This counterpoint article is printed with the permission of the Board of Editors of the Journal. As with any substantive legal article published in the Journal, the views of the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board or the Kansas Bar Association.

II. Federal requirements for recruiting adoptive families for children whose parents face termination of their parental rights

One of the federal regulations implementing the Adoptions and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires states to "begin to identify, recruit, process, and approve" an adoptive family for a child concurrently with the filing of the state's petition to terminate parental rights (TPR). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has clearly explained this regulation. An early version of the ASFA regulation on this point, proposed September 18, 1998, read:

When the [s]tate files or joins a petition to terminate parental rights in accordance with paragraph (i)(1) of this section, it must concurrently identify, recruit, process, and approve a qualified adoptive family for that child.(fn1)

However, in the final version published January 25, 2000, HHS changed the regulation's meaning by inserting the words "begin to":

When the [s]tate files or joins a petition to terminate parental rights in accordance with paragraph (i)(1) of this section, it must concurrently begin to identify, recruit, process, and approve a qualified adoptive family for the child.(fn2)

In explaining the wording change, HHS said:

Many commenters sought clarification about the requirement at §1356.21(i)(3) for a [s]tate concurrently to recruit and approve an adoptive family for a child while a [s]tate petitions for TPR. Most commenters wanted language added to the regulation text that interpreted the statutory provision to mean that that a [s]tate agency should begin the process of finding an adoptive family at the time a petition for TPR was filed. ...

We understand the commenter' [sic] concern regarding the wording of this requirement and have made some changes to the regulatory language at §1356.21(i)(3). The final rule now clarifies that the [s]tate must begin the process to find an adoptive family for the child concurrently with filing a petition for TPR. We believe that this provision was developed to ensure that a child does not wait unnecessarily between the time a TPR is granted and the child's permanent placement in a home. ..."(fn3)

HHS clearly intends for states to begin the process of locating an adoptive family when the state petitions to terminate parental rights. HHS doesn't intend for the state to both begin and complete the family search process simultaneously with the filing of the state's petition as the Young - Lee article suggests. As discussed below, KCSL's adoptive search process begins when the child's case plan goal changes to adoption, which usually happens well before the state petitions to terminate parental rights.

III. Understanding a meaning of "concurrent planning"

In the context of child welfare, social work, and some ASFA application, "concurrent planning," as well as "concurrent" and its derivations, are terms of art that should be used correctly to avoid confusion. As a term of art, "concurrent planning" refers to a specific model of child placement created by Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Washington and Idaho.(fn4) It was designed to be an alternative to sequential permanency planning, and it emphasizes working toward family reunification...

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