Facilitate Family Preservation and Promote Adoption


Publication Date: June 4, 1997


Dear Colleague:

I am writing to encourage you to help States use every available resource to facilitate family preservation and promote adoption. In thinking about promoting the needs of children, we must all remember that every child deserves a safe, permanent family; that the child's health and safety should be the paramount considerations in all placement and permanency planning decisions; and that foster care is a temporary situation -- it is not an appropriate place for children to grow up.

In addition to the resources of the Federal Parent Locator Service, a State may use the location information available through its own Parent Locator Service to facilitate adoptions and promote family preservation. There are several ways a State can use these services to encourage family preservation and promote adoption.

First, children who qualify for foster care under title IV-E of the Social Security Act are eligible for child support enforcement services, including parental location, under title IV-D of the same Act. Location of the natural parent(s) would contribute directly to the goal of facilitating adoptions because it may be possible for the child to live with the noncustodial parent and so avoid further foster care or adoption services altogether. Even if a noncustodial parent or other relative is not able to provide a home for the child, ruling out this alternative early will allow the adoption agency and court to move expeditiously toward adoption or another permanent alternative for the child.

Second, since the proceedings preliminary to adoption can appropriately be characterized as a child custody determination, a judicial decision-maker or agent of the court could have access to the same location information available to child support enforcement agencies. Of course, disclosure of such information is contingent upon appropriate safeguards being in place to maintain its confidentiality.

Third, while the general practice is for persons applying for support enforcement services to apply for the complete range of such services, an applicant can limit his or her request to "location-only" services. Through this mechanism, a child's attorney or court-appointed guardian ad litem could obtain access to the full range of location sources.

I know I can count on you to use every available resource to help children find permanent homes.


David Gray Ross /s/
Deputy Director Office of Child Support Enforcement

cc: ACF Regional Administrators

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