A bill introduced in Congress would remove virtually all federal requirements that states seek to terminate the rights of parents within a specific timeline in child welfare cases.
The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires states to terminate parental rights when a child has been in foster care for 15 of 22 consecutive months, but new legislation authored by California Rep. Karen Bass (D), would change that standard.
Under the 21st Century Children and Families Act, states could not even attempt to permanently sever children from their parents until they’d been in foster care for two full years consecutively, barring extreme circumstances.
The 24-month timeline was selected to align with the Family First Prevention Services Act, but as it is currently worded in the Bass bill, states could choose not to abide by the two-year timeline at all. The legislation as written uses the word “may” not “shall” while continuing to receive federal funds for the children who remain in foster care.
The bill would also require states to:
report on disproportionality and disparities in access to services in their child welfare system.
demonstrate that they provided the family services, support, and the time needed to address the reasons for the child’s placement in foster care, and link modification of parental rights to the child’s best interests.