By John DiMotto
In October, 1997 the United State Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). One month later, President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law.
ASFA was enacted to address problems in the foster care system. It changed how child welfare was viewed. It focused on the health and safety of children as opposed to reuniting children with birth parents. ASFA puts children first and the needs and rights of birth parents second.
In all cases involving children who are placed out of their parental home -- CHIPS and TPR cases -- there are certain obligations and duties that must be undertaken by Child Welfare Agencies. In Milwaukee County that agency is the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW). Anytime a child is placed out of the parental home, the Court is required to undertake an ASFA analysis to ensure that the interests of the child and parents are fully protected in light of the potential for TPR. The analysis requires the Court to determine if:
1) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to prevent the removal of the child from the parental home, while assuring that the child's health and safety were the paramount concerns.
2) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to permit the return of the child safely to the parental home.
3) Placement in the child's parental home is contrary to the welfare of the child.
4) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to provide services and involve appropriate service providers in meeting the needs of the child and the parents.
5) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to place the child safely with other out of home siblings.
6) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to facilitate safe visitation among siblings where they are not placed together.
7) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to achieve the permanency plan goals, including through out of state placement if appropriate.
ASFA puts the onus on both the parents and the Child Welfare Agency to make every reasonable effort to work together in the best interest of the child.