Child Welfare legislation
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Adoption & Safe Families Act (ASFA)
A child's sense of time is different from an adult's...
...a year can seem like forever to a child.
In 1997, Congress made major changes to the federal child abuse and neglect law. These changes became the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). ASFA focuses on the health and safety of a child. Oregon law already supported that main goal.
If a child is not safe at home, Department of Human Services child welfare and the courts may become involved. A child who is not safe with a parent may be removed from their home temporarily. A child removed from home may be placed with relatives or foster parents.
During this time, parents can work on changes. ASFA and Oregon law shortened the time a parent has to make changes. In most cases, Department of Human Services child welfare will work with parents to make changes to address concerns about the child's safety.
Oregon law also requires an alternate plan be developed for the child. This alternate plan will be used if the parents cannot provide a safe home for a child. The family should help build this plan, if possible.
Relatives, foster parents, or others in the community may help build both plans. This is usually done in a Family Decision Meeting. A Family Decision Meeting builds a plan to meet the needs of the child. Foster parents or relatives may provide support to parents. They can also help with visits between the child and parents.
If a child cannot be safely placed with a parent, the court will have a permanency hearing. This hearing will be held no later than 14 months after a child is removed from home. The permanency hearing may be held sooner if a parent is not working toward making changes. The result of this hearing may result in a plan to terminate parental rights and place the child for adoption, place the child with a legal guardian or relative, or provide the child with another safe and permanent living arrangement.
ASFA puts the child first
The main goal of the Adoption and Safe Families Act is to assure the health and safety of a child.
If parents cannot provide safe care for a child, the court and DHS child welfare may become involved.
If a child must be removed from home to be safe, the child may be placed with relatives or foster parents. During this time, parents must make changs to meet the needs of the child.
Parents have limited time to make changes
Most parents will be given the chance to make changes. Changes may include better parenting skills or alcohol and drug treatment. DHS and others will work with parents to make these changes.
The law allows only a limited time to make changes so a child can be safely placed with a parent.
Making a Concurrent Plan
The law requires a concurrent plan be made in case a child cannot be safely placed with a parent. This plan will be used if parents cannot provide a safe home for a child. Families should help build this plan, if possible.
The concurrent plan may be adoption. Other concurrent plans may be permanent placement with a relative, guardianship, permanent foster care, or emancipation for an older child.
If a concurrent plan becomes the goal for a child, the court must approve that plan.
A court may decide that a parent has done something that seriously harms or results in the death of any child - like murder, torture, or sexual abuse. If so, the court may say DHS does not have to work with that parent to return a child to that parent. Then DHS may look for another permanent home for the child right away.
A child needs a safe and permanent home...
Sometimes a child spends a long time in foster care. Yet parents still don't make the changes needed for the child to be safe with them.
The law limits the time parents have to make changes. If a child cannot be safely placed with a parent, the court will have a permanency hearing. This hearing will be held no later than 14 months after a child is removed from home.
At this hearing, a concurrent plan may become the goal for the child. If a child cannot be safely placed with a parent, the concurrent plan should be put into place quickly.