Legal Notes

Article excerpt

Reasonable efforts. The term became a part of child welfare culture as a result of the Adoption Assistance Act of 1980. It has largely been used as a part of a conversation and functional practice. It is taking on new meaning and should cause notice for everyone in the child welfare system.

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Clark County District Attorney v. the District Court, Docket No. 47744/47745 brings added meaning to the term "reasonable efforts" not only in Nevada, but elsewhere. In this case, the judge of the Clark County court made a "no reasonable efforts" finding for a child who is over the age of 18 and already out of the system with a case closed. The judge found that since the child had been in the system for a significant period of time and had not achieved permanency as that judge found appropriate, a "no reasonable efforts" finding should be made. This has caused the loss of over $800,000 in federal Title IV-E reimbursement for Nevada and therefore the state, through the Clark County District Attorney, has filed an appeal. The case was heard en banc before the Supreme Court of the state of Nevada on Oct. 9, 2007.

This case brings added importance to the term "reasonable efforts" and should bring attention across the country to the importance of that phrase. The Adoption Assistance Act of 1980 designated the Juvenile and Family Court as the institution to provide oversight for the executive branch administrative functions of providing safety and protection for children. In addition, the 1997 passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act presents significant changes not only in the fundamental basis of child services and permanency, but also to the reasonable efforts finding and, through the Child and Family Service Review process, the importance of judicial involvement. In fact, the original regulations of Adoption and Safe Families Act indicated that a court could not order a specific placement for a child.

The clear intent to be drawn from that drafting is that the legislative intent is for the court to provide oversight and determine whether the services provided by the agency were sufficient given the intent and purpose of those acts. The federal government tied Federal Title IV-E reimbursement to the states through those reasonable efforts findings. Further, it is clear from the Adoption and Safe Families Act that the federal government intended to continue to hold state agencies responsible for their efforts through the CFSR process. …