Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted in 1997 in response to concerns that many children were remaining in foster care for long periods or experiencing multiple placements. This landmark legislation requires timely permanency planning for children and emphasizes that the child's safety is the paramount concern. Specifically, ASFA:

  • Clarifies the meaning of reasonable efforts to emphasize safety of the child as the paramount concern and to add “safety of the child” to every step of case planning and review processes
  • Allows for concurrent planning, the simultaneous exploration of family reunification and other permanency options
  • Requires States to file for termination of parental rights (TPR) once children have been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, except in certain allowable circumstances, and encourages States to expedite TPR in specific situations of severe harm inflicted on children
  • Mandates States to document efforts to find adoptive or other permanent placements for children, including placements with fit and willing relatives
  • Gives preference when making placement decisions to adult relatives over nonrelative caregivers when relative caregivers meet all relevant State child protection standards
  • Emphasizes adult relatives over nonrelative caregivers when relative caregivers meet all relevant State child protection standards when making placement decisions; the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, P.L. 104-193, was the first law giving legal preference for relatives. It requires criminal background checks for all foster and adoptive parents.

For more information about ASFA, visit the following Web sites.