Journal of Law and Policy


Alison Peebles


The Adoption and Safe Families Act (“ASFA”) is a federal law that creates a mandate for states to move to terminate parents’ rights if a child has been in foster care for fifteen out of the twenty-two most recent months. The federal government then pays states for each adoption over a set threshold amount, which has resulted in terminating over two million children’s parents’ rights and disbursing over four hundred million dollars to states. Black families, Indigenous families, and families of color as well as low-income families disproportionately experience the trauma and harm of permanent family separation. This Note argues that ASFA’s rigid timeline coupled with persistent family court delays make government intervention via a temporary removal to foster care during a “child protective proceeding” a central contributing factor to a termination of parental rights (“TPR”). Government-forced family separation causes irreparable and damaging breaches to the parent-child relationship, earning TPRs the epithet “the civil death penalty.” ASFA must be repealed immediately, and the solution to keeping families together and safe should include distributing no-strings-attached cash payments directly to parents. Additionally, investing in robust anti-poverty efforts, led by communities who are the most impacted by the family regulation system, will encourage self-determination and autonomy for families, thereby rendering the family regulation system obsolete.