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Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

Within the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), ACF is responsible for programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. See ACF organizational chart.


Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF)

ACYF is a part of the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF). ACF is divided into: 1) the Family and Youth Services Bureau and Children’s Bureau, each of which is responsible for different issues involving children, youth, and families and 2) a cross-cutting unit responsible for research and evaluation. The United States and its territories are divided into 10 geographic regions, each having an office responsible for administering some of ACYF's programs in its region. The ACF Region 10 Office, based in Seattle, serves Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State.


Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)

AFCARS is an automated system mandated by a 1986 amendment to Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to collect and facilitate the analysis of and reporting on foster care and adoption data. AFCARS collects case level information on: 1) all children in foster care for whom the child welfare agency has responsibility for placement, care, or supervision and 2) on children who are adopted under the auspices of the agency’s public child welfare agency. The data required by AFCARS is the same information that would normally be collected during the course of a caseworker’s assessment, planning, and provision of services, so that the collection of information solely for the purpose of meeting AFCARS requirements is not necessary. AFCARS data is used in many ways including: to respond to Congressional requests for current data on children in foster care or those who have been adopted; to create short and long-term budget projections; to target areas for greater general or technical assistance, discretionary service grants, research and evaluation, and regulatory change; and to determine and assess outcomes for children and families. See Administration for Children and Families trend data. Also see SACWIS.


Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA)

Signed into law November 1997, AFSA was designed to improve the safety of foster children, promote adoption and other permanent homes for foster children, expand family preservation and support services, and extend subsidies for families with adoptive children. Among its many provisions, AFSA requires individual states to provide legal assurances that the safety of the children will be of paramount concern and to initiate court proceedings to free a child for adoption once a child had been waiting in foster care for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months (unless a legal exception has been established). AFSA also clarifies what constitutes “reasonable efforts” to keep families together, noting that the “reasonable efforts” requirement does not apply in cases in which a court has found that the parent has subjected the child to "aggravated circumstances" as defined in state law (including but not limited to abandonment, chronic abuse, and sexual abuse).


Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 requires that public child welfare agencies make reasonable efforts to avoid unnecessary removals of children from their homes and to reunify children with their families. Additionally, this statute established adoption assistance to adoptive families.


Adoption Program

In Washington State, Children’s Administration’s (CA) adoption program is an out-of-home service focused exclusively on providing adoption services to children placed in state foster care and to families interested in adopting a child from foster care. CA focuses on placing children from foster care with approved adoptive families. Children are considered special needs and are often harder to place as a result of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and/or neglect or are part of a sibling group. Adoption Services include: adoptive family recruitment; completion of adoptive home studies to determine the fitness and suitability of a family for adoption by providing training; and pre-placement and post-placement services to the child and family. CA adheres to and implements the adoption policy of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978.

Adoption Support Program

In Washington State, the Adoption Support Program assists families adopting special needs children by providing ongoing financial and medical benefits to qualified children based on state and federal regulations.

Age Out

Also known as ‘age of majority’ or 'aging out,' age out refers to the termination of court jurisdiction over children residing in foster care. All states have established an age between 18 and 21, after which a foster care youth reaching that age is no longer eligible for any services or support. In Washington, youth may age out when they turn 18 if they are not eligible for the extended foster care program or do not elect to participate in the program. Otherwise, they age out when they are no longer eligible, leave the program, or turn 21. See Extended Foster Care Program in Washington State’s programs for youth aging out of foster care.



With reference to additional prevention and treatment, AOD is an acronym for ‘alcohol and other drugs.’


See Family Assessment, Investigative Assessment, and Risk Assessment.

At-Risk Youth

In Washington State, an at-risk youth is defined as a juvenile who: has been absent from home for at least 72 consecutive hours without consent of his/her parent; is beyond the control of his/her parent such that the child's behavior endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or any other person; or has a substance abuse problem for which there are no pending criminal charges related to the substance abuse.