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Child Welfare League of America Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services

{Printed January 2000 by the Child Welfare League of America)

Following are sections from these new standards. CWLA is the largest national affiliation of child placing agencies in the US. They are seen as setting the standards for child placement practice.

Section 1

Adoption as a Child Welfare Service

1.17 Openness in Adoption

The agency providing adoption services should recognize the value of openness to all members of the adoption triad, but should allow determinations concerning the degree of openness in an adoption to be made by the parties to the adoption on an individualized basis.

Openness in adoption has the potential to benefit all members of the adoption triad. The degree of openness in the relationship between birth and adoptive families should be arrived at by mutual agreement based on a thoughtful, informed decision making process by the birth parents, the prospective adoptive parents, and the child, when appropriate.

Decisions about the degree of openness should be based on respect for the rights of all individuals involved in the adoption.

Section 2

The Practice of Adoption: Services for Birth Parents

2.7 Disclosure of Birth Parent Identifying Information to Adopted Individuals

The Agency providing adoption services should advise birth parents who are making a plan for the adoption of their child that information related to their identities may be disclosed to the child at some point in the future.

Many birth parents may express an interest in having their identities disclosed to the child whom they place for adoption at the time the child reaches adulthood. The agency providing adoption services should obtain, in writing, the birth parents' interest in having such information provided and should retain the birth parents' written statement in the adoption record.

Some birth parents, at the time they make the decision to place their child for adoption, may express a desire to have their identities withheld from their child. The agency providing adoption services should advise the birth parents that under current law in all states, courts may order the opening of sealed adoption records and allow adopted adults access to identifying information.

Laws sealing adoption records are being re-examined in many states, and the possibility exists that adopted adults may have increased access to identifying information in the future. As a result, agencies should assist birth parents in understanding that it is not possible to assure them that their identities will be protected from the children they place for adoption.

The birth parents' desire to have their identities shared or withheld from the child they placed for adoption may change over time. The agency providing adoption services should inform the birth parents that they may at any time communicate to the agency any changes in their desires in this regard.

Section 6

The Practice of Adoption: Postplacement and Postlegalization Services

6.22 Access to Identifying Information

The agency providing adoption services should support efforts to ensure that adults who were adopted have direct access to identifying information about themselves and their birth parents.

The prevailing legal practice in the United States prohibits adults who were adopted as children from obtaining access to their original birth certificates or to identifying information contained in their adoption records. The practice of sealing records had come under scrutiny as the benefits of openness in adoption for the adopted individual, birth parents, and adoptive parents have come to be understood.

The interests of adopted adults in having information about their origins have come to be recognized as having critical psychological importance as well as importance in understanding their health and genetic status. Because such information is essential to adopted adults' identity and health needs, the agency should promote policies that provide adopted adults with direct access to identifying information.

This trend toward openness has already been recognized by the Indian Child Welfare Act (P.L. 95-608). Under that Act courts must unseal records for American Indian children, on request, and provide any information necessary for the adopted individual to ascertain his or her tribal affiliation and membership. Such information may include the names of the adopted child's birth parents.

Section 7

Organization and Administration of Adoption Services

Responsibilities of Public and Voluntary Adoption Agencies

7.7 Responsibility for Providing Leadership and Advocacy

The agency providing adoption services should assume a leadership role in assessing and meeting the adoption needs of the children it serves as well as the needs of other children in the community who need adoption planning and services. The agency should engage in advocacy activities to promote policies and practices that ensure timely permanence for children and adequate protection for children, their birth families, and their adoptive families.

The agency should keep the community informed of the specific needs of children and families in the community with regard to adoption planning and services; participate in community planning and identification of gaps in services; promote the coordination of existing services; stimulate the development of new services; and work closely with community groups and other agencies to improve the quality of adoption services.

Each agency staff and board members should be informed of client and community needs and should participate in advocacy efforts to address these needs. Agency staff should engage in case advocacy in behalf of individual clients and, as appropriate, take steps to act as advocates in the community for clients and others not well served by existing policies.

The agency providing adoption services should establish mechanisms for its staff members, clients, and others to inform it of needs and concerns in the community and to develop strategies for addressing those needs.

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