Adoption Library

Online Resources for State Child Welfare Law and Policy


This brief introduction summarizes how States address this topic. To access online resources for a specific State or territory, visit the State Statutes Search.

Child welfare professionals require ready access to State laws and regulations regarding child protection, foster care, and adoption. This publication provides web addresses for State statutes accessible online and lists the parts of the code for each State and territory that contain the laws addressing child protection, adoption, and child welfare. It also provides web addresses for States' regulation and policy websites and lists other resources that explain States' policies and procedures.

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State Statutes

State statutes are provisions enacted by State legislatures that authorize a State government to operate and perform its many functions. All States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands currently make their statutes available on websites that are freely accessible to the public.1 Statutes are organized topically into codes by titles, chapters, articles, or sections. Familiarity with the structure of a State's code is helpful for locating information.

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State Policy and Regulation

State regulations, also known as administrative law or policy, are promulgated by State agencies to guide the application of statutory requirements to agency practice.2 Each department or agency within a State government typically is responsible for formulating regulations and policy for the programs that the agency administers. Regulations tend to be organized into codes by agency, topic, or specific programs.

Most States now make regulations available on a State website organizing every agency's administrative code or on a website of the individual department or agency. Some State agencies have further organized their regulations into policy manuals and other explanatory materials; many of these also are available online.

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Other Considerations

State statutes can be subject to further interpretation by State case law. Case law refers to the body of court opinion (i.e., the written decisions that are issued at the appellate and supreme court levels) that can affect the application of law. Individuals interested in how the law may apply to their specific situations should consult with a legal professional who has experience in child welfare law in their State.

To access online resources for a specific State or territory, visit the State Statutes Search.

1 Online statutes and regulation for Puerto Rico are available only in Spanish. Only session laws (recently enacted legislation) are available online for the Northern Mariana Islands at this time. back
2 State regulation and policy are subject to a hearing and approval process before finalization. back

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The information on this page is mainly from The Child Welfare Information Gateway and is used by permission.

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