Across the country, several states are working to make processes in child welfare and adoption more efficient. Just last week in Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court issued new rules meant to streamline the intercountry adoption process for PA residents.
The current intercountry adoption procedures that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of State operate under say that in order for a child’s adoption to be finalized abroad, both parents must be present in child’s country of origin. This child would then enter the U.S. on an IR-3 or IH-3 visa and gain citizenship upon entering the U.S. If only one parent is present, that parent receives custody for immigration purposes, however, the adoption will be legally finalized after entering the U.S., and the child is eligible for citizenship after the adoption is finalized here in the U.S. In this scenario, the child immigrates with an IR-4 or IH-4 visa (the distinction is simply made depending on if the child’s country of origin is party to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption).
In cases where only one parent is present, Pennsylvania courts have decided that parents are allowed to file a form petition and several required documents, instead of requiring a time-consuming process of duplicating paperwork from other government agencies.
Another example of child welfare-related processes being streamlined is in Iowa where child abuse and neglect complaints will now be directed to one centralized intake center, compared to their previous practice of having 99 separate counties accept reports. The efficiency of this new process could prove vital in the state, which has a rate of reports at 59.6 per 1,000 children, compared to the national average of 43.1 per 1,000 children.
In Tennessee, a project was undertaken last year to improve the timeliness of foster care adoption. The ultimate goal is to streamline the adoption process and move children into loving families as soon as possible. The idea grew out of a CCAI Advisory Board meeting conversation when Rep. Jim Cooper expressed concerns about inefficiencies in the child welfare system, and Elmer Doty, CCAI Executive Board Member, offered experts from his company to examine ways to improve the system. Using Lean/Six Sigma tools and methodologies, experts from Vought Aircraft (now owned by Triumph Group, Inc.) partnered with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to examine adoptions involving children who are in full guardianship with a family identified. What resulted was a thorough, fact-based examination of the key processes of finalizing these adoptions, and finding ways to reduce the variance across regions. Tennessee DCS officials began implementing recommendations last June and will begin tracking data over the next year.