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May 2003Vol. 4, No. 4Unclear Whether ASFA Speeds Adoption, Slows Reunification

A recent study explores the impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) on adoptions of children from foster care. The briefing paper, Adoption Dynamics: The Impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act by Fred H. Wulczyn of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, reports the following findings:

  • It is too soon to say whether the implementation of ASFA has had an impact on the likelihood of adoption for children in the foster care system.
  • During the mid-1990s (just before ASFA was passed), adoptions were not slowing down.
  • The likelihood of adoption was increasing even before the law changed, and the increase appears to have continued after ASFA became law.
  • Time to reunification appears to have slowed in recent years, suggesting that the increased focus on adoption may have unintended consequences for reunification.

The study included data from the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive on children who first entered foster care between 1990 and 1999 in nine States: Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. A full-text version of the briefing paper is available on the HHS website at

ASFA was signed into law in November 1997. Key provisions tighten the definition of reasonable efforts to preserve the family, require reasonable efforts to achieve permanency, specify a timeframe for commencing termination of parental rights, and provide incentives to States for increasing the number of completed adoptions. The full text of ASFA can be found at 140.64.21&filename=publ89.105&directory=/ diskc/wais/data/105_cong_public_laws.

Related Items

Read more about ASFA in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "GAO Report Examines ASFA's Impact on Foster Care" (August/September 2002)
  • "Children's Bureau Publishes New Guide to Child Welfare Practice After ASFA" (May/June 2001)