Prior to the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, domestic adoption in the United States was conceived much differently. Before then, preservation of the family through preservation of parental rights was often the most important consideration of state health and social services departments, even on occasions when that would potentially endanger the welfare of children. With the inherent risk to American children in holding to that policy, though, it was increasingly apparent that a new adoption act was sorely needed.
With the signing of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, also known as the ASFA, however, somewhat of a revolution was brought about in the arena of domestic adoption. This adoption act saw a new conception of how parental rights should be addressed, as well as the institution of other reforms. At the same time, though, the ASFA was not above criticism at the time of its creation, and some contingents find fault with it even today. Some basic information on the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997:
As noted, where this adoption act engineered the most sweeping changes to American adoption policy is regarding the issue of parental rights. Through the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, the conditions for termination of parental rights were made less restrictive.
Potentially, within a year of allegations of abuse or neglect, biological parents may be stripped of their ability to care for their biological children and relocated to another household through adoption from foster care. In a manner of speaking, then, the ASFA can be seen as important step for domestic adoption in the United States in that it expresses a more firm commitment to the best interests of its children.
At the same time, though, this adoption act speaks to one of the biggest interests of the states: more money. By amending provisions of the Social Security Act, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 grants federal funds to states for their compliance with the letter of the law, to as much as $4,000 per adoption for numbers of foster care child placements higher than those of the previous fiscal year.
Thus, at the time of the ASFA’s passage, there was definitely an incentive for states to get as many children as they could out of child welfare.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 has been much celebrated for its attention to child rights and the plight of waiting children in foster care. Nonetheless, critics of this adoption act point to ways in which the system can be and has been abused. For one, the language of the ASFA is correct that preservation of parental rights should not be upheld in all cases, but by the same token, adoption by relatives and strangers should not automatically be considered to be the best solution, especially not to justify the intake of state funds.
Some critics, in addition, think the deadlines for termination of parental rights contained in the Act are a bit hasty. After all, children may be placed into families temporarily through legal risk placements, so it is not as if living in child welfare and living birth parents are the only options. Whether the good of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 outweighs the bad is subjective.
At any rate, the ASFA has provided fodder for our national dialog on what is best for children in foster care, and therefore has furthered our understanding of the issues at hand.