The Child Abuse and Prevention Act of 1974 increased the number of children coming into foster care that had experienced abuse and neglect. Due to the increased numbers in our country it became evident that guidelines were needed for safe permanent living arrangements for children in out-of-home care. The Adoptions Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 [AACWA] provided programs to better fit children’s needs. Before 1980 many children were placed into foster care homes without a sense of permanency or with sufficient planning.
The 1980’s act encouraged kinship placement by requiring social workers to explore family resources and to utilize the least restrictive environment . This supported having the child stay connected to the family and the community. In addition, AACWA guidelines emphasized permanent living arrangements for children by limiting the amount of time that the agency could keep a child in foster care to eighteen months. By the eighteenth month a permanent living arrangement had to be established for the child or the agency had to pursue an adoptive process where parents rights would be terminated. For children placed in foster homes, the foster parents could be considered in the process as an adoption placement .
The Act also had special provisions for children with disabilities and for minority groups. Recruitment efforts emphasized developing and seeking homes for these population groups. The goal was to provide children with a safe, permanent living environment and to prevent them from becoming part of the “foster care drift” . It also reduced the psychological problem known as “foster care syndrome” which was the result of long term placement with a lack of permanency in their lives.
AACWA promoted a reduction in foster care while reducing the duration of care. It supported services to the natural family and in most cases encouraged children to be returned to the natural family setting. This contributed to stability in the child’s life.
While researching the Adoptions Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 a Maryland social worker was interviewed. She was Camille Baudot Wheeler.