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The Basics of Adoption Practice
Series: Bulletins for Professionals|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2006|
6. Matching Families and Children
The goal of a careful matching process is to ensure the most appropriate fit between the needs of the child and the strengths of the family. In the case of domestic infant adoption or placement of children from foster care, matching is the task of reviewing the assessments of prospective families along with those of available children to determine the best family to provide safety, permanency, and well being for a specific child or sibling group.
The selection of a potential adoptive family should be a collaborative effort between the child's social worker, foster parents or current caretakers, the adoptive family's assessment worker, adoptive parents, other professionals, and, in some instances, the birth family and the child. In seeking families for children, workers should first explore families to which the child already has some attachment (e.g., relatives or current or previous foster caregivers). This may be particularly important for older youth. If no appropriate resources for the child exist within the child's current network, "matched" families (nonrelative families unknown to the child) should be considered to meet the child's needs for adoptive placement.
In intercountry adoption, there may be fewer opportunities for matching by the adoption worker. In some cases, the selection and matching may be done in the child's birth country rather than by the U.S. agency. Some agencies provide referrals so that the U.S. agency selects the child to be offered to a family. The family then accepts the referral or waits for another referral.
What makes a good match? Consider the following factors:
- Does the family have the skills, abilities, knowledge, and desire to parent the child?
- Does the family possess the emotional and financial resources to meet the child's needs? Do they know how to access them?
- Is the family's lifestyle compatible with that of the child?
- Does the family have specific experience with needs similar to those of the child?
- Are the parents willing to learn more about caring for this child's needs?
- Does the family feel that this is the right child for them and that their existing structure can grow and adapt to meet the child's needs?
- Does the family have a network of family, friends, and professionals to provide emotional support for the adoption?
There is a range of possibilities between a good and poor match. In most matches, the family is a good match for some of the child's issues, a minimal match for some, and a poor match for others. It is imperative that the family be a good match for the child's most critical needs or issues. Additionally, prospective parents should be highly motivated to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to meet all the child's needs.
Legal considerations in matching. There is overarching legislation that guides practice and may impact matching, including the following:
- The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 supports permanency for children by reducing timeframes for courts and child welfare agencies in working toward permanency outcomes (family reunification, kin placements, or adoption) for children in foster care. ASFA shortened the timeframe for children's permanency and shifted the focus to safety for children. For the text of ASFA, visit http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/useftp.cgi?IPaddress=188.8.131.52 &filename=publ89.pdf&directory=/diskc/wais/data/ 105_cong_public_laws (PDF - 172 KB). For comments on practice issues, go to http://www.abanet.org/child/rclji/tenprereqs.html.
- The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is Federal legislation that regulates the placement of Native American children. ICWA grants jurisdiction to the tribe in the removal and placement of Native American children. For the text of ICWA, visit the National Indian Child Welfare Association. For a discussion of practice issues, go to www.abanet.org/genpractice/lawyer/complete/f95child.html.
- The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a binding contract between 52 member jurisdictions (all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) that establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the interstate placement of children. The ICPC is based on the premise that children placed across State boundaries should receive the same benefits and services as if they remained in their home States. General ICPC information can be obtained by linking to http://icpc.aphsa.org. A guide to the ICPC can be found at http://icpc.aphsa.org/Home/Doc/Guidebook_2002.pdf (PDF - 355 KB).
- The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) was enacted in 1994 and amended by the Interethnic Placement Amendment (IEP) in 1996 to eliminate discriminatory practices that denied children permanency and discouraged applicants from becoming foster and adoptive parents. The foundation for MEPA is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits recipients of Federal financial assistance from discriminating in their programs and activities based on race, color, or national origin. The law prohibits the delay or denial of a child's placement or an individual's ability to adopt on the basis of race, color, or national origin. It also requires agencies to recruit potential foster and adoptive families that reflect the diversity of children in care.
Violations of MEPA carry financial sanctions. If a social worker in either a public or private agency violates MEPA, the entire State can lose a portion of title IV-E funding for every quarter they are out of compliance. In addition, State departments can impose sanctions on any agency, including a corrective action plan, recouping of title IV-E monies from public agencies, or requiring the return of contract monies from private agencies. Private agencies that violate MEPA are at risk of losing their license to perform foster care and adoption functions.
For a summary of MEPA, go to www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/federal/pl103_382.cfm. For a discussion of the practice issues, go to www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/mepa-powerpoint.
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