Revisiting the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980: Analysis, Critique, and Recommendations

Elisa Kawam


During the 1970s, record rates of families intersected with the US foster care system. An estimated 500,000 children resided in foster care and despite services provided, those children suffered longer stays in foster care, increased re-entry into foster care, and reduced family reunification. The foster care system actually promoted family instability and in response, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act [AACWA] passed. AACWA intended to promote family strength and increased service provision through the restructuring and reorganization of the child welfare system. A variety of opinions regarding the overall approach to solving this problem ultimately led to severe programmatic cuts that are still felt today, more than 30 years later. Revisiting the AACWA and providing a renewed critique yields pragmatic, feasible, and necessary policy recommendations to guide governmental bodies worldwide on behalf of the families and children they serve.

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