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November 2003Vol. 4, No. 9Promising Practices for Expediting Permanency

The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) mandated that States reduce the length of time courts take to finalize permanent placements for children removed from the custody of their birth families. Although ASFA focuses on the initial trial, appeals are also an important part of the permanency process. Permanency cannot be achieved if a child's case is awaiting resolution of an appeal. Some appellate courts are recognizing this concern and are beginning to address it by developing procedures that limit time extensions, set specific time goals for resolution, and more.

The National Center for State Courts recently released a report, Expediting Dependency Appeals: Strategies to Reduce Delay, that examines the effectiveness of these procedures to expedite appeals in dependency cases (e.g., child abuse and neglect, children in need of special assistance, foster care, or adoption) in State courts. The first section of the report describes all such procedures in State courts across the country and reviews their implementation. The second section focuses on specific illustrations of how States are expediting dependency appeals in Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Vermont, and Virginia.

The report offers eight steps any appellate court can follow to implement an expedited appeals process. An appendix includes a copy of all relevant State rules and statutes. These may be useful for States needing to develop such a statute or rule. The full report is available electronically on the National Center for State Courts website at