Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the bipartisan, bicameral National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act of 2021, legislation to create a national standard and database to increase the uniformity and transparency of home studies for families adopting children. Home studies are mandated for every family in the United States adopting domestically from a private agency or public child welfare agency. While these studies provide child welfare agencies and courts with comprehensive information for determining the most appropriate home for a child, current requirements vary vastly from state to state. The National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act of 2021 will help fix this inconsistency by creating a national standard for adoption and foster care home studies. Senator Lankford and Congressmen Huffman (D-CA-2) and Bacon (R-NE-2) were original cosponsors of this legislation.
“Our outdated child welfare system can’t meet the needs of the thousands of children that enter the child welfare system every year. Congress has a responsibility to help these children find loving and stable families, and give them the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act of 2021 would create a national standard and database for home studies so that all children have a better chance at being matched to families who will provide a caring home.”
Inconsistency in home study standards across the States has complicated the adoption process for children and resulted in a number of issues, including inability to collect accurate information on adoptive or foster families, bias in decisions of suitability due to family self-reporting, lengthy and costly home-study processes, and delays in interstate adoption and fostering. The National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) by creating a new program under the Adoption Opportunities Program and includes three main components:
- Creating a research-based National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study assessment standard. States who implement the national assessment standard would be eligible for funding through a demonstration program.
- Developing and establishing a secure National Home Study Database containing information related to completed home studies in order to allow child welfare agencies across the country to more efficiently and effectively match foster and adoptive children to prospective families.
- Instituting regular independent evaluations of the assessment standard and database.
The legislation is supported by Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the former Special Advisor for Children’s Issues at the State Department; the Military Family Building Coalition; the National Association of Counsel for Children; and the Consortium for Children.
For full text of the legislation, please click here.