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STATE PLAN FOR FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTION ASSISTANCE[218]

Sec471[42 U.S.C. 671] (a) In order for a State to be eligible for payments under this part, it shall have a plan approved by the Secretary which—

(1) provides for foster care maintenance payments in accordance with section 472 and for adoption assistance in accordance with section 473;

(2) provides that the State agency responsible for administering the program authorized by subpart 1 of part B of this title shall administer, or supervise the administration of, the program authorized by this part;

(3) provides that the plan shall be in effect in all political subdivisions of the State, and, if administered by them, be mandatory upon them;

(4) provides that the State shall assure that the programs at the local level assisted under this part will be coordinated with the programs at the State or local level assisted under parts A and B of this title, under subtitle I oftitle XX of this Act, and under any other appropriate provision of Federal law;

(5) provides that the State will, in the administration of its programs under this part, use such methods relating to the establishment and maintenance of personnel standards on a merit basis as are found by the Secretary to be necessary for the proper and efficient operation of the programs, except that the Secretary shall exercise no authority with respect to the selection, tenure of office, or compensation of any individual employed in accordance with such methods;

(6) provides that the State agency referred to in paragraph (2) (hereinafter in this part referred to as the “State agency”) will make such reports, in such form and containing such information as the Secretary may from time to time require, and comply with such provisions as the Secretary may from time to time find necessary to assure the correctness and verification of such reports;

(7) provides that the State agency will monitor and conduct periodic evaluations of activities carried out under this part;

(8) subject to subsection (c), provides safeguards which restrict the use of or disclosure of information concerning individuals assisted under the State plan to purposes directly connected with (A) the administration of the plan of the State approved under this part, the plan or program of the State under part A, B, or D of this title or under title I, V, X, XIV, XVI (as in effect in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands), XIX, or XX, or the supplemental security income program established by title XVI, (B) any investigation, prosecution, or criminal or civil proceeding, conducted in connection with the administration of any such plan or program, (C) the administration of any other Federal or federally assisted program which provides assistance, in cash or in kind, or services, directly to individuals on the basis of need, (D) any audit or similar activity conducted in connection with the administration of any such plan or program by any governmental agency which is authorized by law to conduct such audit or activity, and (E) reporting and providing information pursuant to paragraph (9) to appropriate authorities with respect to known or suspected child abuse or neglect; and the safeguards so provided shall prohibit disclosure, to any committee or legislative body (other than an agency referred to in clause (D) with respect to an activity referred to in such clause), of any information which identifies by name or address any such applicant or recipient; except that nothing contained herein shall preclude a State from providing standards which restrict disclosures to purposes more limited than those specified herein, or which, in the case of adoptions, prevent disclosure entirely;

(9) provides that the State agency will—

(A) report to an appropriate agency or official, known or suspected instances of physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, or negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child receiving aid under part B or this part under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health or welfare is threatened thereby; and

(B) provide such information with respect to a situation described in subparagraph (A) as the State agency may have;

(10)[219] provides for the establishment or designation of a State authority or authorities which shall be responsible for establishing and maintaining standards for foster family homes and child care institutions which are reasonably in accord with recommended standards of national organizations concerned with standards for such institutions or homes, including standards related to admission policies, safety, sanitation, and protection of civil rights, provides that the standards so established shall be applied by the State to any foster family home or child care institution receiving funds under this part or part B of this title, and provides that a waiver of any such standard may be made only on a case-by-case basis for non-safety standards (as determined by the State) in relative foster family homes for specific children in care“;

(11) provides for periodic review of the standards referred to in the preceding paragraph and amounts paid as foster care maintenance payments and adoption assistance to assure their continuing appropriateness;

(12) provides for granting an opportunity for a fair hearing before the State agency to any individual whose claim for benefits available pursuant to this part is denied or is not acted upon with reasonable promptness;

(13) provides that the State shall arrange for a periodic and independently conducted audit of the programs assisted under this part and part B of this title, which shall be conducted no less frequently than once every three years;

(14) provides (A) specific goals (which shall be established by State law on or before October 1, 1982) for each fiscal year (commencing with the fiscal year which begins on October 1, 1983) as to the maximum number of children (in absolute numbers or as a percentage of all children in foster care with respect to whom assistance under the plan is provided during such year) who, at any time during such year, will remain in foster care after having been in such care for a period in excess of twenty-four months, and (B) a description of the steps which will be taken by the State to achieve such goals;

(15) provides that—

(A) in determining reasonable efforts to be made with respect to a child, as described in this paragraph, and in making such reasonable efforts, the child’s health and safety shall be the paramount concern;

(B) except as provided in subparagraph (D), reasonable efforts shall be made to preserve and reunify families—

(i) prior to the placement of a child in foster care, to prevent or eliminate the need for removing the child from the child’s home; and

(ii) to make it possible for a child to safely return to the child’s home;

(C) if continuation of reasonable efforts of the type described in subparagraph (B) is determined to be inconsistent with the permanency plan for the child, reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan (including, if appropriate, through an interstate placement) and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child;

(D) reasonable efforts of the type described in subparagraph (B) shall not be required to be made with respect to a parent of a child if a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that—

(i) the parent has subjected the child to aggravated circumstances (as defined in State law, which definition may include but need not be limited to abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, and sexual abuse);

(ii) the parent has—

(I) committed murder (which would have been an offense under section 1111(a) of title 18, United States Code[220], if the offense had occurred in the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States) of another child of the parent;

(II) committed voluntary manslaughter (which would have been an offense under section 1112(a) of title 18, United States Code[221], if the offense had occurred in the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States) of another child of the parent;

(III) aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such a murder or such a voluntary manslaughter; or

(IV) committed a felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent; or

(iii) the parental rights of the parent to a sibling have been terminated involuntarily;

(E) if reasonable efforts of the type described in subparagraph (B) are not made with respect to a child as a result of a determination made by a court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with subparagraph (D)—

(i) a permanency hearing (as described in section 475(5)(C)), which considers in-State and out-of-State permanent placement options for the child, shall be held for the child within 30 days after the determination; and

(ii) reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan, and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child; and

(F) reasonable efforts to place a child for adoption or with a legal guardian, including identifying appropriate in-State and out-of-State placements may be made concurrently with reasonable efforts of the type described in subparagraph (B);

(16) provides for the development of a case plan (as defined in section 475(1)) for each child receiving foster care maintenance payments under the State plan and provides for a case review system which meets the requirements described in section 475(5)(B) with respect to each such child;

(17) provides that, where appropriate, all steps will be taken, including cooperative efforts with the State agencies administering the program funded under part A and plan approved under part D, to secure an assignment to the State of any rights to support on behalf of each child receiving foster care maintenance payments under this part;

(18) not later than January 1, 1997, provides that neither the State nor any other entity in the State that receives funds from the Federal Government and is involved in adoption or foster care placements may—

(A) deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the person, or of the child, involved; or

(B) delay or deny the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent, or the child, involved;

(19) provides that the State shall consider giving preference to an adult relative over a non-related caregiver when determining a placement for a child, provided that the relative caregiver meets all relevant State child protection standards;

(20)(A) provides procedures for criminal records checks, including fingerprint-based checks of national crime information databases (as defined in section 534(e)(3)(A) of title 28, United States Code[222]), for any prospective foster or adoptive parent before the foster or adoptive parent may be finally approved for placement of a child regardless of whether foster care maintenance payments or adoption assistance payments are to be made on behalf of the child under the State plan under this part, including procedures requiring that—

(i) in any case involving a child on whose behalf such payments are to be made in which a record check reveals a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, for spousal abuse, for a crime against children (including child pornography), or for a crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but not including other physical assault or battery, if a State finds that a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that the felony was committed at any time, such final approval shall not be granted; and

(ii) in any case involving a child on whose behalf such payments are to be made in which a record check reveals a felony conviction for physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense, if a State finds that a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that the felony was committed within the past 5 years, such final approval shall not be granted; and

(B) provides that the State shall—

(i) check any child abuse and neglect registry maintained by the State for information on any prospective foster or adoptive parent and on any other adult living in the home of such a prospective parent, and request any other State in which any such prospective parent or other adult has resided in the preceding 5 years, to enable the State to check any child abuse and neglect registry maintained by such other State for such information, before the prospective foster or adoptive parent may be finally approved for placement of a child, regardless of whether foster care maintenance payments or adoption assistance payments are to be made on behalf of the child under the State plan under this part;

(ii) comply with any request described in clause (i) that is received from another State; and

(iii) have in place safeguards to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of information in any child abuse and neglect registry maintained by the State, and to prevent any such information obtained pursuant to this subparagraph from being used for a purpose other than the conducting of background checks in foster or adoptive placement cases; and

(C) provides procedures for criminal records checks, including fingerprint-based checks of national crime information databases (as defined in section 534(e)(3)(A) of title 28, United States Code), on any relative guardian, and for checks described in subparagraph (C) of this paragraph on any relative guardian and any other adult living in the home of any relative guardian, before the relative guardian may receive kinship guardianship assistance payments on behalf of the child under the State plan under this part;

(21) provides for health insurance coverage (including, at State option, through the program under the State plan approved under title XIX) for any child who has been determined to be a child with special needs, for whom there is in effect an adoption assistance agreement (other than an agreement under this part) between the State and an adoptive parent or parents, and who the State has determined cannot be placed with an adoptive parent or parents without medical assistance because such child has special needs for medical, mental health, or rehabilitative care, and that with respect to the provision of such health insurance coverage—

(A) such coverage may be provided through 1 or more State medical assistance programs;

(B) the State, in providing such coverage, shall ensure that the medical benefits, including mental health benefits, provided are of the same type and kind as those that would be provided for children by the State under title XIX;

(C) in the event that the State provides such coverage through a State medical assistance program other than the program under title XIX, and the State exceeds its funding for services under such other program, any such child shall be deemed to be receiving aid or assistance under the State plan under this part for purposes of section 1902(a)(10)(A)(i)(I); and

(D) in determining cost–sharing requirements, the State shall take into consideration the circumstances of the adopting parent or parents and the needs of the child being adopted consistent, to the extent coverage is provided through a State medical assistance program, with the rules under such program;

(22) provides that, not later than January 1, 1999, the State shall develop and implement standards to ensure that children in foster care placements in public or private agencies are provided quality services that protect the safety and health of the children;

(23) provides that the State shall not—

(A) deny or delay the placement of a child for adoption when an approved family is available outside of the jurisdiction with responsibility for handling the case of the child; or

(B) fail to grant an opportunity for a fair hearing, as described in paragraph (12), to an individual whose allegation of a violation of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph is denied by the State or not acted upon by the State with reasonable promptness,

(24) include a certification that, before a child in foster care under the responsibility of the State is placed with prospective foster parents, the prospective foster parents will be prepared adequately with the appropriate knowledge and skills to provide for the needs of the child and that such preparation will be continued, as necessary, after the placement of the child;

(25) provide that the State shall have in effect procedures for the orderly and timely interstate placement of children; and procedures implemented in accordance with an interstate compact, if incorporating with the procedures prescribed by paragraph (26), shall be considered to satisfy the requirement of this paragraph;

(26) provides that—

(A)(i) within 60 days after the State receives from another State a request to conduct a study of a home environment for purposes of assessing the safety and suitability of placing a child in the home, the State shall, directly or by contract—

(I) conduct and complete the study; and

(II) return to the other State a report on the results of the study, which shall address the extent to which placement in the home would meet the needs of the child; and

(ii) in the case of a home study begun on or before September 30, 2008, if the State fails to comply with clause (i) within the 60-day period as a result of circumstances beyond the control of the State (such as a failure by a Federal agency to provide the results of a background check, or the failure by any entity to provide completed medical forms, requested by the State at least 45 days before the end of the 60-day period), the State shall have 75 days to comply with clause (i) if the State documents the circumstances involved and certifies that completing the home study is in the best interests of the child; except that

(iii) this subparagraph shall not be construed to require the State to have completed, within the applicable period, the parts of the home study involving the education and training of the prospective foster or adoptive parents;

(B) the State shall treat any report described in subparagraph (A) that is received from another State or an Indian tribe (or from a private agency under contract with another State) as meeting any requirements imposed by the State for the completion of a home study before placing a child in the home, unless, within 14 days after receipt of the report, the State determines, based on grounds that are specific to the content of the report, that making a decision in reliance on the report would be contrary to the welfare of the child; and

(C) the State shall not impose any restriction on the ability of a State agency administering, or supervising the administration of, a State program operated under a State plan approved under this part to contract with a private agency for the conduct of a home study described in subparagraph (A);

(27) provides that, with respect to any child in foster care under the responsibility of the State under this part or part B and without regard to whether foster care maintenance payments are made under section 472 on behalf of the child, the State has in effect procedures for verifying the citizenship or immigration status of the child;

(28) at the option of the State, provides for the State to enter into kinship guardianship assistance agreements to provide kinship guardianship assistance payments on behalf of children to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of the children for whom they have cared as foster parents and for whom they have committed to care on a permanent basis, as provided in section 473(d);

(29) provides that, within 30 days after the removal of a child from the custody of the parent or parents of the child, the State shall exercise due diligence to identify and provide notice to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives of the child (including any other adult relatives suggested by the parents), subject to exceptions due to family or domestic violence, that—

(A) specifies that the child has been or is being removed from the custody of the parent or parents of the child;

(B) explains the options the relative has under Federal, State, and local law to participate in the care and placement of the child, including any options that may be lost by failing to respond to the notice;

(C) describes the requirements under paragraph (10) of this subsection to become a foster family home and the additional services and supports that are available for children placed in such a home; and

(D) if the State has elected the option to make kinship guardianship assistance payments under paragraph (28) of this subsection, describes how the relative guardian of the child may subsequently enter into an agreement with the State under section 473(d) to receive the payments;

(30) provides assurances that each child who has attained the minimum age for compulsory school attendance under State law and with respect to whom there is eligibility for a payment under the State plan is a full-time elementary or secondary school student or has completed secondary school, and for purposes of this paragraph, the term “elementary or secondary school student” means, with respect to a child, that the child is—

(A) enrolled (or in the process of enrolling) in an institution which provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which the institution is located;

(B) instructed in elementary or secondary education at home in accordance with a home school law of the State or other jurisdiction in which the home is located;

(C) in an independent study elementary or secondary education program in accordance with the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which the program is located, which is administered by the local school or school district; or

(D) incapable of attending school on a full-time basis due to the medical condition of the child, which incapability is supported by regularly updated information in the case plan of the child;

(31) provides that reasonable efforts shall be made—

(A) to place siblings removed from their home in the same foster care, kinship guardianship, or adoptive placement, unless the State documents that such a joint placement would be contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings; and

(B) in the case of siblings removed from their home who are not so jointly placed, to provide for frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction between the siblings, unless that State documents that frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction would be contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings;

(32)[223] provides that the State will negotiate in good faith with any Indian tribe, tribal organization or tribal consortium in the State that requests to develop an agreement with the State to administer all or part of the program under this part on behalf of Indian children who are under the authority of the tribe, organization, or consortium, including foster care maintenance payments on behalf of children who are placed in State or tribally licensed foster family homes, adoption assistance payments, and, if the State has elected to provide such payments, kinship guardianship assistance payments under section 473(d), and tribal access to resources for administration, training, and data collection under this part; and

(33) provides that the State will inform any individual who is adopting, or whom the State is made aware is considering adopting, a child who is in foster care under the responsibility of the State of the potential eligibility of the individual for a Federal tax credit under section 23 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

(b) The Secretary shall approve any plan which complies with the provisions of subsection (a) of this section.

(c) Use of Child Welfare Records in State Court Proceedings.—Subsection (a)(8) shall not be construed to limit the flexibility of a State in determining State policies relating to public access to court proceedings to determine child abuse and neglect or other court hearings held pursuant to part B of this part, except that such policies shall, at a minimum, ensure the safety and well-being of the child, parents, and family.


[218]  See Vol. II, P.L. 110-351, §503, with respect to prohibition of Federal funding to unlawfully present individuals.

[219]  See Vol. II, P.L. 110-351, §104(b), with respect to a report on licensing standards for relatives.

[220]  See Vol. II, 18 U.S.C. 1111(a).

[221]  See Vol. II, 18 U.S.C. 1112(a).

[222]  See Vol. II, 28 U.S.C. 534 (e)(3)(A).

[223]  See Vol. II, P.L. 110-351, §301(d), with respect to rules of construction and §301(e), with respect to regulations.