Yes, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) Can and Should Be Repealed!
I decided to write this piece because, quite simply, it was long overdue. And since I have had extensive experience with ASFA — as a mother who unjustly lost several of my children to DHS, social justice advocate, and child welfare scholar — and consider it to be one of the most damaging and perverted pieced of legislation ever to be enacted, right up there with welfare reform, mandatory sentencing, and the three strikes laws; I believe that I am qualified to speak on the subject. But first, for those of you who don’t know what the Adoption and Safe Families Act is (also known as ASFA) I will give an overview.
ASFA: A Brief Overview
ASFA is arguably the most important piece of federal child welfare legislation of the last twenty-plus years since it was created and signed into law in 1997 by then President Bill Clinton. AFSA, supposedly, was intended to combat the overcrowded and overburdened child welfare system, especially foster care, by making child safety, specifically permanency through termination of parental rights (also known as TPR) and adoptions, the states’ priority rather than family preservation which was the (right) aim before AFSA.
ASFA enables states to forgo (i.e, weasel out of) providing “reasonable efforts” services to keep the child in the home (also known as in-home services) and to reunify the family once and/or if the child was placed into state foster care. This was done intentionally by creating a number of loopholes and/or “exemptions” that states can use and/or exploit in order to justify child removals and TPRs; thus, and for all intents and purposes, ASFA allows states to render a parent unfit for life — which means that state DHS agencies can, and often do, automatically remove future children based off of old allegations/substantiations and circumstances regardless of the parent’s present situation — this violates the due process clause in the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution but thanks to AFSA few people care. AFSA also mandates that state DHS agencies seek TPR within 15 months (out of the last 22 months); thus, the law significantly shortens the amount of time that birth parents, or as I call them true parents, are given to complete their already notoriously difficult to complete “case plan services.” ASFA further gives states child welfare agencies federal $$$ incentive payments should they increase the number of adoption. And believe me, they do. You see where this can and has become an issue?
That said, — and in a poor attempt to make the legislation look reasonable and fair — there are three exemptions written into ASFA wherein a state DHS/child welfare agency “could” chose NOT to seek TPR within the 15 month deadline and those include: (1) if the child is living with a relative; (2) if the state agency documents a compelling reason why filing for TPR is not in the child’s best interests; and (3) if the state has failed to provide the family with the services necessary for reunification. However, there’s a significant problem with these built-in safeguards because DHS workers and courts/judges rarely if ever enforce ANY of these exceptions and/or rules. Therefore, it’s as if they never existed at all and as such, and not surprisingly, they have little effect on removals, placements, or TPRs considering that they are almost universally ignored by case decision makers. Go figure, right?
This “child safety” law — which was created by a bunch of well-off and some say well meaning white people who don’t have to live with the consequences of such a law — has caused tremendous injury to low-income families since its passing, especially to black families who are grossly over-represented within the child welfare system due to institutional and structural racism. I could list tons of research of the negative and lasting effects of ASFA (and the child welfare system in general) and the harm that this law has had on low-income and overwhelmingly black families but I think I’m going to take the easy way out on this one (its Christmas Eve and I am tired) and refer you to further articles that I have written (see end of the article). And now that you are brought up to speed on the legislation and why it needs to go, I come to the point of this article. AFSA can and should be repealed.
“We’re going to terminate parental rights in the past we wouldn’t have terminated. We’re going to remove children from the home in the past we wouldn’t have. And that is the price-tag for child safety.”
— Richard Gelles, the white and affluent (who never has to worry about DHS knocking on his door or removing his children), dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work, is a child safety advocate who helped draft (ASFA).
ASFA, like any other piece of federal of legislation and/or regulation, can be repealed or amended (and I don’t care which one it is to be honest as long as it happens). The way to repeal AFSA is through the same process that was used to bring it into existence all those years ago, Congress. After all, Congress (Senate and House of Representatives) has the authority to enact, change, or repeal any federal law. Per a fellow Quoran (author, researcher and educator) Virgil Alexander, any law, including ASFA, can be repealed by getting 51 percent of both houses of congress to pass legislation repealing it, providing the president doesn’t veto the repeal—which I don’t think we would have to worry about with this present considering both his uncharacteristically willingness to sign off on a new criminal justice reform bill and his other “commitments” to put it nicely.
A Call to Action…
So, that’s it ladies and gentlemen — and fellow social justice and parental rights advocates, families/parents at-risk, and woke child welfare professionals everywhere — it’s time to get to work and make it happen. Join me in contacting (call, write, or email) those duly elected representatives and senators and tell them that its time to repeal ASFA and keep (American) families together!!!
You can wait until after Christmas and New years, I am not a complete zealot:-)
#NAFPAorg #RepealASFA #AfricanAmericanChildWelfareAct #ChildWelfare #SocialJustice #BlackFamilyMatters #BlackLoveMatters #BlackLivesMatter #BlackFamiliesBelongTogether #BlackHistory #BlackFamilyMatters#CASASoWhite #LivingWhileBlack
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Latagia Copeland-Tyronce, MSW, CADAS, is a longtime parental rights and social justice advocate, child welfare reform activist, writer/blogger, and journalist whose work has been featured in BlackMattersUs and Rise Magazine. She is the founder, president, and executive director of the National African American Families First and Preservation Association (NAFPA) a groundbreaking 501c4 nonprofit origination, the first of its kind, devoted exclusively to the protection and preservation of the African American (Black) Family though policy and legislative advocacy.
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