The landmark Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 ushered in a series of changes to the foster care system. The law was important for a litany of reasons, but perhaps none more so than giving clarity to the guidelines for the termination of parental rights.
Prior to the milestone act, states adhered to the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. However, most states interpreted this law as requiring biological families be kept together, regardless of most situations.
That meant rather than terminating parental rights and allowing children to become part of new permanent families, many children in foster care spent their entire childhood in state custody, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Continue reading