Friday, February 16, 2007
Quick Trigger Adoptions
Adoption and Safe Families Act tearing families apart
The Adoption and Safe Families Act is a federal law that was implemented in 1997 to help child welfare agencies in providing homes for children in their care. Under this law, the process adoption is accomplished quickly due to limitations placed on the biological parents of children. These limitations are actually time constraints within which the parents are required to achieve reunification with their children. “The act mandates that states file termination of parental rights petitions if a child has been out of the home for 15 of the most recent 22 months.”
The time constraints have caused the act to have a tremendous affect on incarcerated parents and their children. Incarcerated parents can easily lose their parental rights. “The AFSA simply exacerbated the difficulty of reuniting families, both by providing little guidance and little time to realistically address family problems. The law signaled to states that whatever minimal efforts they chose to make to reunify families were fine with Congress, so long as they ended on time, either through family reunification or, more likely, family severance.” The Agency is not required to facilitate a visit between child and incarcerated parent. They are only required to make “reasonable efforts”, which is left to the interpretation of state agencies. Caregivers may not even want child to have contact with incarcerated parent. Drug relapses and financial struggles will also impede child-parent contact. The courts do not encourage contact with incarcerated parents. The whole legal system seems built to isolate children from incarcerated parents.
The Agency is also not obligated to make “reasonable efforts” if the child was put under state’s care due to aggravated circumstances such as abandonment, sexual abuse, torture, chronic mental injury, or chronic physical harm. Another circumstance is that of an “enumerated felony”, such as “murder of another child of the parent, voluntary manslaughter, aiding, abetting, and conspiring to commit such murder or voluntary manslaughter, felony assault”. Agency will also overlook reasonable efforts if parental rights were terminated before prior to the current incident. The problem with this is that anyone who falls in these categories is viewed as undeserving of having a child. Their rights are automatically, mostly involuntarily, terminated. “Lastly, involuntary termination is unconstitutional. Involuntary termination generally punishes a parent who refuses to consent to sever his or her rights and who exercises his or her constitutional right to trial and is unsuccessful”.
Read the following for more information:
Lu, Lynn D., & Allard, Patricia E. (2006). Rebuilding Families, Reclaiming Lives. APA Monitor 31(1). Retrieved September 07, 2006