The Meanings of Permanence: A Critical Analysis of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997
Northeastern University - School of Law
Harvard Journal on Legislation, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 1-36, Winter 2001
Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper
In 1997, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The Act amends Titltes IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act, which governs states' federally funded child-protective efforts. Under the terms of the Act, states must conduct a permanency hearing within twelve months after a child enters foster care to determine whether the child will be returned to the family of origin or be "freed" for adoption. In this Essay, Professor Adler argues that this requirement forces courts and state decision-makers to choose between two stark alternatives - termination of parental rights and family reunification - and reflects a limited vision of the ideal family, to which only original and adoptive families conform. Professor Adler argues that this pervasive "ideology of the ideal family" is a pillar of American legal consciousness that throughout the history of American child welfare policy has sidelined nonconforming approaches and profoundly and detrimentally affected the lives of foster children. She brings to the foreground a pattern of legal consciousness and proposes that lawmakers embrace a wider array of permissible family structures to make room for a broader range of possible outcomes.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Date posted: April 24, 2012