Adoption Dynamics: An Update on the Impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act
The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) addresses issues pertaining to prevention of placement in the child welfare system, as well as family reunification, the specific provisions of ASFA that relate to the termination of parental rights and adoption are perhaps most central to the law’s overarching purpose. This paper analyzes adoptions from foster care using data from Chapin Hall’s Multistate Foster Care Data Archive to understand what effect, if any, the federal law has had on the proportion of children admitted to foster care that were later adopted and on the time needed to complete those adoption. Using a cohort sequential design, we studied 13 successive entry cohorts of children admitted to foster care in seven states from 1990 to 2002. The results indicate that there was an increase in the period-specific probability of adoption that coincides with the passage of ASFA in 1998. However, we also found that the pace of adoption had remained stable in the early 1990s and started to accelerate in the mid-1990s, before ASFA was passed. This finding clarifies our understanding of ASFA in two ways. First, there was no slowdown in the average time required to complete adoptions that ASFA was originally designed to address. Second, the existence of a pre-ASFA effect suggests that ASFA may have only added to the efforts already made by the states.