Monday, November 21, 2022

UPDATED: NCCPR news and commentary round-up – special Harm of ASFA edition

Saturday marked a tragic milestone – the 25th anniversary of a law that has harmed millions of children, the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.  So this week, the round-up is devoted entirely to news, commentary and resources concerning the harm of ASFA. 


● A parent may be sentenced to a relatively short time in prison – but, because of ASFA, for their children it can lead to a life sentence of separation from parents they love.  The PBS NewsHour has an in-depth report. 

Recent commentary: 

● From Prof. Dorothy Roberts of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of Shattered Bonds and Torn Apart, the definitive books on family policing and race, in Slate: "The Clinton-Era Adoption Law That Still Devastates Black Families Today."

UPDATE, DEC. 13, 2021: From Kathleen Creamer, managing attorney of the Family Advocacy Unit at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia in The Imprint: "The Children of ASFA Are Now the Parents of ASFA." 

 As a family defense attorney representing parents in child welfare cases, I have spent my career as an eyewitness to the devastating aftermath of our approach. My clients are the children of ASFA. It has decimated their lives. So very many of my clients are the products of a system that devalued their connections and took them away, forever, not only from their parents, but from their brothers and sisters. From their grandparents. From their aunts and uncles. From their neighborhood, their community, their culture. I have seen the trauma of this approach ripple across generations as the system that ripped children from their natural family supports seeks to take away their own children as they move into adulthood.

● From Prof. Sarah Katz, director of the Family Law Litigation Clinic at Temple University, in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “A federal law has been destroying families for 25 years.  Let’s get rid of it.” 

● From Prof. Mical Raz in The Washington Post: “Our adoption policies have harmed families and children.  The Clinton-era Adoption and Safe Families Act passed 25 years ago. It’s time to reexamine its origins.” 

● UPDATE, FEB. 7, 2023: Also from Dr. Raz writing for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Policy Lab: "What We’ve Learned About the Impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act 25 Years Later."

● From Josie Pickens and Dean Alan Dettlaff of the upEND movement, in the Houston Chronicle: “Instead of making children safer … ASFA became yet another means for national and state governments to forcibly and permanently remove Black children from their families through a speedy process of terminating parental rights.” 

● From longtime family defender Diane Redleaf in Reason:The Adoption and Safe Families Act Takes Kids Away From Loving Parents.” 

● UPDATE, DEC. 1, 2022  From Sara Block of Ascend Justice, and Melissa Staas of Legal Aid Chicago in the Chicago Tribune: “A federal time bomb perpetuates cyclical trauma in the foster care system”

● UPDATE, DEC. 8, 2022 From Prof. Shanta Trivedi, director of the  Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the University of Baltimore in Family Court Review: An in-depth examination of why: "The Adoption and SafeFamilies is Not Worth Saving: The Case for Repeal."

● UPDATE, DEC. 12, 2022 From New York City's family defenders in the New York Daily News: "Our collective experience of representing nearly 40,000 New York City parents over the past 15 years makes clear that ASFA must be repealed."

● And from NCCPR in the Albany, N.Y., Times Union “This law was supposed to protect kids from abuse. It hasn't.” 

Previous commentary: 

● Also from Prof. Trivedi, in The Imprint: “Adoption and Safe Families Act is The ‘Crime Bill’ of Child Welfare.” 

● From Kathleen Creamer, managing attorney of the Family Defense Unit at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and Prof. Chris Gottlieb, director of the New York University School of Law Family Defense Clinic: “If Adoption and Safe Families Act Can’t Be Repealed, Here’s How to At Least Make it Better.” 

Additional resources 

NCCPR’s ASFA resource page, with an overview of the harm the law has done and responses to some of the excuses put forth by ASFA proponents.