Bill to cut adoption delays gets approval of Congress States are to receive payments for moving children from foster care

November 14, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Congress gave final passage yesterday to a measure aimed at reducing bureaucratic roadblocks that contribute to neglected and abused children languishing in foster care rather than being adopted.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican Sen. John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, was called by its supporters the first major policy change in federal regulations for the nation's foster care system in almost two decades.

The bill directs states to move more quickly in transferring children from foster care into permanent families.

And in a break from current practices that stress returning children to their biological parents -- even in cases in which the youngsters could be in danger -- the measure calls for putting the primary emphasis on a child's safety and well-being in placement decisions.

"This historic bill seeks to shorten the time a child must wait to be adopted, all the while ensuring that wherever a child is placed, his or her safety and health will be the first concern," Chafee said yesterday.

He has predicted that the measure could affect an estimated 500,000 children living away from their biological parents.

The bill, which enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, was approved by the House 406-7, while the Senate passed it in a voice vote.

President Clinton has expressed support for the bill and is expected to sign it quickly.

The measure provides cash incentives for states to reduce the number of children in foster care -- a $4,000 bonus for each adoption above current levels.

The payment would rise to $6,000 for each adoption of a child with special needs.

Further, it seeks to promote the adoption of special-needs children by ensuring health insurance coverage for such youngsters.

Pub Date: 11/14/97

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