Adoption and Safe Families Act
Adoption and Safe Families Act commonly referred to as ASFA is a popular law that was enacted and signed into law in the year 1997 during the administration of Bill Clinton. This was after it was approved by the Congress. The main aim of the passing of the ASFA was to help correct the many issues that had hit the foster care system that were making it difficult for special needs children to be adopted. Some of the challenges that were there before had been partly contributed by the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. This is because it hindered adoption through its interpretation that no matter the circumstances, families must be put together.
The ASFA was adopted with one main purpose: To ensure that the legal procedures followed before a child can be set free to be adopted are fastened or speeded up. It was also meant to reduce the time within which a child stays under foster care. All this is done whilst ensuring that children are given maximum protection and are safe. Therefore, the Act was signed into law to ensure that children’s safety is improved, to ease ad fasten the adoption process, and also to ensure that permanent homes where children would be placed were promoted with an aim of supporting families and providing good homes for the children.
The ASFA funds the following programs;
- Funds directed towards prevention of child abuse and neglect
- Funds to help families that are hit by crisis
- It also funds counselling services
- It provides funds for treatment of children with substance abuse issues
- It provides funds for mental health services for those who need them
- It provides funds to help victims of domestic violence
- It also funds programs meant to provide temporary childcare as well as emergency crisis nurseries
- It provides funds for programs for ensuring transport services to and from either of the services provided is available
Before the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 was enacted, the status of foster care and adoption was slow and hectic. Case reviews concerning foster care and adoption could go as far as eighteen months which was quite a long time considering that the purpose should be to provide safety and protection for the children and also to provide some stable and permanency living situation to help them grow well. Therefore, with ASFA, there were some changes (Humphrey, Turnbull & Turnbull III, 2006). The maximum time taken before case reviews are concluded is twelve months, and this is good or improved timing to have issues sorted. However, the time can extent further up to the 18th month in some complicated felony cases.
Before the ASFA was enacted, further delay occurred because when it came to the review of status of a foster child, there occurred an extension of placement hearing. Currently, this has changed to Permanency Hearing. It generally entails a hearing meant to ensure that there are good plans laid out for the child who is being adopted or placed in a permanency setting. It also meant getting to decide where the child will be placed (either at their family of origin) or elsewhere as well as when that would occur.
Another change that occurred with the enactment of the ASFA is that it introduced time-limited reunification services as a way to promote and to provide support for families. These services were to be provided to children who had been taken from the foster homes to their parents’ home. The main aim was to promote child safety as well as reunification in a timely manner (Humphrey, Turnbull & Turnbull III, 2006).
The ASFA also committed itself to providing incentive payments to various states. This was to promote the increment in the number of children being adopted at any given time. With the previous slow and dragged processes of child adoption, this was a great change that helped to fasten and ease child adoption (Humphrey, Turnbull & Turnbull III, 2006). It also sought to ensure that children with special needs got faster and safe adoptions as opposed to before. This was a key contribution of the Clinton Administration as it really caused positive societal change and promoted more child safety.
The ASFA sought to act as a watchdog for the various child welfare programs. This is through following up on their performance and on their activities to ensure that they were accountable and responsible for what they are supposed to do. This also involves rating the various Health and Human Services based on development of outcome measures to keep a close eye on the services provided.
The ASFA provides additional bonuses to the various states that facilitated faster adoptions from foster care homes for children with special needs. This was further supported by the recent 2003 reauthorization (P.L. 105-89 and P.L. 108-145). The ASFA also defines special needs that may be there for adopted children and they are;
- Belonging to a minority race
- Having any form of disability
- Older age
- The need for two or more siblings to be placed in the same foster care or adoptive home
For such special needs children, the ASFA advocates for consideration of these special needs while placing them in adoptive services. If it is possible for siblings to be put together, then it is recommended that this occurs to ensure that they are more comfortable. However, if it is not possible, then they can be separated as this should not hinder their adoption to safer and more permanent homes (Hansen, 2007).
The ASFA has been very helpful towards children with special needs and also those without when it comes to their faster adoption and promotion of their safety. It has been instrumental in ensuring that children re indeed taken care and protected even if under foster homes or if adopted by other parents. It has also been instrumental towards reuniting families and following up on them to ensure that the children are safe and that they receive the care they need.
Hansen M. E. (2007). State-Designated Special Needs, Post-Adoption Support, and State Fiscal Stress. Children and youth services review, 29(11), 1411–1425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2007.05.015
Humphrey, K. R., Turnbull, A. P., & Turnbull III, H. R. (2006). Impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act on youth and their families: Perspectives of foster care providers, youth with emotional disorders, service providers, and judges. Children and Youth Services Review, 28(2), 113-132.