January 1, 2005
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) codified the right of children in foster care to achieve a safe and permanent home. Since its passage, there has been a sharp increase in the number of children adopted from foster care -- from an average of 28,000 children adopted each year during the three-year period before the Act’s passage to 50,000 adopted in FY 2001 (AFCARS, 2003). While this 79 percent increase reduced the number of children for whom child welfare agencies are seeking permanent homes, the 50,000 children adopted in 2001 still represent only 38 percent of the 131,000 waiting children (AFCARS 2003). Further, the vast majority of the post-ASFA adoptions were by foster parents or relatives of the children in care. This study was designed to explore the question of why, despite an increasing demand for children to adopt and active adoptive family recruitment efforts, few “general applicants” (those who were not the children’s relatives or foster parents) adopt children from foster care.
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