Adoption and Safe Families Act

On November 19, 1997, the President signed into law (P.L. 105-89) the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, to improve the safety of children, to promote adoption and other permanent homes for children who need them, and to support families. This new law makes changes and clarifications in a wide range of policies established under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (P.L. 96-272), the major federal law enacted in 1980 to assist the states in protecting and caring for abused and neglected children.

Some highlights include:

The new law redefined "reasonable efforts" to (a) emphasize children's health and safety, (b) require states to specify situations when services to prevent foster placement and reunify families are not required, and (d) reaffirm certain specific situations of severe inflicted harm to children where reasonable efforts to preserve families are not required.

Federal statutory language concerning case plans and six-month reviews is amended to ensure that the issue of child safety is specifically addressed.

States are required to initiate or join termination of parental rights proceedings for children who have been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months.

States are required to provide notice and the opportunity to be heard -- to foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, and relatives caring for children -- in all reviews and hearings.

Where the permanency plan for a child is adoption or placement in another permanent home, case plans are to document steps the agency is taking to secure such permanent home.

Permanency hearings are to be held earlier and be more decisive.

View the ASFA