What is the Adoption and Safe Families Act

Reauthorizing the Family Preservation and Support Services Program of 1980, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted to improve the deficiencies of the previous Program in an effort to ensure safety and permanence for neglected children. Before the enactment of the Act, many children were abandoned in foster care agencies waiting for years to be placed for adoption. At the same time, numerous efforts to reunite children with their birth parents had failed and many children had been placed for adoption without proper assessment of the adoptive families. This had resulted in wrong placement decisions that, by no means, had reassured child safety provisions.

Appreciating the importance of childhood, the Adoption and Safe Families Act favors children’s rights stating that it does not tolerate multiple placements, needless continuances, and deferred permanence plans. This bit of legislation does not accept abused and neglected children of 2 years old to grow into defiant teens with separation anxiety.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) focuses on imposing stricter guidelines for adoption placements in an effort to achieve successful adoptions in a timely manner. Promoting health and safety for children on foster care, the Act requires States to identify and monitor situations that foster placements put children’s interests at stake. By establishing appropriate measures to monitor the accountability of the child welfare system, each State should document reasonable efforts to place neglected children into adoptive families.

In this context, the Act focuses on ensuring safety for abused and neglected children. Defining the health and safety provisions that should be taken into consideration in each State for placements of abused and neglected children, the Act requires regular criminal record checks for adoptive parents to ensure children’s safety.

Furthermore, the Act places the acceleration of permanent placement for children on the forefront of its processes. If a child had been waiting for adoption for 15 of the last 22 months, then parental rights are automatically removed, unless there are mitigating circumstances such as the absence of a close relative, or adoptive families that are not to the child’s best interest.

With its implementation, the Act has supported and promoted adoptions by providing incentive funds of $20 million for the period 1999-2003 assisting States to increase the number of adoptions. $4,000 incentive was provided for a child in foster care, while $6,000 incentive was provided for a child with special needs.

In regards to its implementation, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) is generally considered successful. Serving the purposes of creating stable and permanent homes for children in the child welfare system, the Act has enabled foster care agencies to complete the adoption procedures in expeditious times considering the children’s health and safety provisions.

On the other hand, members of the African American community consider that the implementation of the Act has been detrimental for them. In many cases, single parent families, with the mother or the father imprisoned, could not keep up with the required guidelines, namely the “15 out of 22 previous months”. Hence, according to the Act their parental rights were automatically removed and they failed in achieving reunification with their children.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was signed in November 19, 1997 by President Bill Clinton, after approval of the Congress.