Multiethnic Placement Act Law and Legal Definition

The Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) is a U.S. federal law that was enacted in 1994 to address concerns that children remain in foster care too long. The MEPA prohibits the delay or denial of any adoption or placement in foster care on account of the race, color, or national origin of the child or of the foster or adoptive parents. The Act also requires states to provide for diligent recruitment of potential foster and adoptive families who reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children for whom homes are needed.

The MEPA of 1994 was amended in 1996. The 1996 amendment to the Act, is known as the "Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Adoption Act." The amendment clarified that race, color, or national origin may be considered only in rare circumstances when making placement decisions. However, the amendment affirmed that placement cannot be denied or delayed on the ground of race, color, or national origin. Furthermore, the amendment removed language that allowed routine consideration of these factors in assessing both the best interests of the child and the capacity of prospective foster or adoptive parents to meet the needs of a child.