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Adoption and Safe Families Act-Hope and its Subversion

30 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2009  

David J. Herring



In 1997, Congress enacted the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in an attempt to reform the nation's troubled public child welfare systems. In passing ASFA, Congress emphasized two primary themes. First, Congress made clear that the paramount goal for public child welfare systems is to secure the health and safety of the children who enter these systems. Second, Congress recommitted public child welfare systems to the goal of securing timely permanent placement outcomes for children.

An appreciation of ASFA's historical context is necessary to gain an understanding of its actual goals and its consistent design. Consideration of the historical context is also necessary in order to assess the likelihood of ASFA's success. As became apparent under Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), the breach can be quite wide between legislative design and actual implementation in the trenches of public child welfare systems.

Because of the need to consider ASFA's historical context, Part II of this article assesses the implementation of AACWA. Part III examines ASFA in light of the AACWA experience and assesses the likelihood of, and the role of legal professionals in, the effective implementation of ASFA. Part IV considers the possibility of additional congressional action.

Keywords: Adoption and Safe Families Act, ASFA, Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, AACWA, public child welfare systems, reform, permanent placement, permanency planning ,health and safety of children, implementation, legal professionals, legislation, congressional action

Suggested Citation

Herring, David J., Adoption and Safe Families Act-Hope and its Subversion. Family Law Quarterly, Vol. 34, p. 329, 2000; U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research. Available at SSRN:

David J. Herring (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

6958 Reynolds Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15208

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