States Consider Loosening Stranglehold on Time Limits Associated with the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)
Date:  05-27-2016

Parents who are incarcerated are fighting adoption of their children under AFSA guidelines
From Prison Policy Initiative

Five million children experience the incarceration of a parent at some point in their lives. As a result, many of these children will live with relatives such as grandparents or be placed in foster care. Some of these families will never be legally reunited.

With the passage of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in 1997, states were required to automatically file a petition to terminate parental rights once a child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months. The goal of ASFA is to prevent children from staying in foster care indefinitely by making them eligible for adoption after a set period of time has passed.

But these noble intentions conflict with the realities of mass incarceration, and the law stacks the odds against incarcerated parents seeking to maintain their legal rights to their children. In New York, for example, the median minimum sentence for women is 36 months — more than twice as long as the ASFA deadline. In 2008, almost 73% of women incarcerated in New York reported having one or more children. ASFA sets these mothers up to lose their children as soon as their sentences exceed 15 months. Loss of parental rights is almost always permanent and strips the parent of any right to know whether her child has been adopted, let alone to see her child. Read more.