The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 is a federal law which promotes timely, permanent placements for children in foster care. The primary goal of the legislation is to expedite permanency for children in out-of-home care by setting specific time frames in which the state must act on a child’s permanency plan. For some children, adoption is the best permanency plan. For other children, reunification with their birth parents or guardians may be the best plan. To accomplish this goal, we must consider all permanency options for a child. In a timely manner, we must act on the best plan, while at the same time, we must begin implementation of an alternate concurrent plan for permanency. The law establishes new time lines for “permanency” hearings (previously known as dispositional hearings) and imposes new case plans and review requirements on the Division and the juvenile courts. The permanency plan of every child, regardless of age, who has been in out-of-home care for 15 out of the most recent 22 months, must be reviewed. The state must file a termination of parental rights (TPR) petition unless compelling reasons exist for not filing this petition.
The guidelines are as follows: