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Winter 2024 Issue

Letter to the Editor
Social Work Today
Vol. 24 No. 1 P. 5

To the Editor
I’m writing about an area within child welfare that desperately needs more attention from the social work field. As a social work student pursuing a master’s degree, I’ve spent this last semester analyzing child welfare policies, and I’ve found significant inadequacies in the definitions and application of the Child Welfare Act, as detailed below.

A cause for concern within the act lies in a poorly defined section on the Reasonable Efforts to Preserve or Reunify Families and Achieve Permanency for Children Act. The purpose of this section is to provide support services as an opportunity to preserve or reunify a family unit in lieu of foster care or adoption. However, there are no defined terms stating what efforts are reasonable, which creates a significant social and economic justice issue as this leaves room for interpretation that unfairly affects low-income families, communities of color, and those suffering from mental health concerns, disabilities, and incarceration.1 Additionally, there are certain state financial incentives that encourage adoption, and none that support the reunification of children to their families of origin.1 This is a concern because a child’s removal may not always occur due to poor parenting choices but rather to hardships created by societal failings created by inadequate income to provide food, shelter, or suitable childcare.1

According to the NASW Code of Ethics, social workers have a duty to advocate for the rights and well-being of these vulnerable populations and are called to political advocacy to address gaps such as these.2 Reform of this policy is essential if we, as social workers, are to practice ethically and provide these services to our clients. Social workers must be called to action to contact their political leaders to reform and improve the definitions within this policy to remove the interpretive barriers that affect social and economic justice. I urge every social worker to review this act and the literature regarding its inadequate application and to contact their state representatives for an immediate response and reform to this unfairly applied policy.

Kayla Alexander
Virginia Commonwealth University
Master of Social Work Program

1. Trivedi S. The adoption and safe families act is not worth saving: the case for repeal. Family Court Review. Updated January 2, 2023.

2. Code of ethics. National Association of Social Workers website. https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English