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NYC Administration for Children's Services: The City's child welfare agency, dedicated to protecting children and strengthening families

History: ASFA Guidelines

The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 puts into place the most sweeping changes in federal child welfare policy in two decades and reflects a growing national concern that too many children linger in foster care without a stable, nurturing home to call their own. Once a child comes into foster care, ASFA requires child welfare agencies to quickly match parents with services designed to address the problems that led to the child's placement in care. ASFA also requires that a decision about whether the child can be safely returned home or should be moved toward adoption must be made if the child has been in foster care for 15 or more of the past 22 months.

Part I: Guidelines for Permanency Reviews (issued March 12, 1999)

These guidelines identify the semi-annual Service Plan Review meeting as the critical decision-making point for children and offers guidance to foster care staff on how to interpret ASFA's accelerated decision-making time frames.
 Download Part 1 of this Guideline (PDF format, 14 pages, 128k)

Part II: "Aggravated Circumstances" And Other Grounds for Bypassing Reunification Efforts Under ASFA (issued November 22, 1999)

This memo offers a straightforward guide to the law which governs the unusual situation where a parent's past conduct has been so egregious and harmful to the child that a motion to bypass reunification efforts may be filed in Family Court. This step is taken in order to expedite the process of finding another permanent home for the child.
 Download Part 2 of this Guideline (PDF format, 9 pages, 39k)

Part III: ACS Best Practice Guidelines for Family Visiting Arrangements for Children in Foster Care (issued December 19, 2000)

These guidelines encourage frequent parent-child contact as a vital prerequisite to achieving early permanency. The guidelines seek to encourage visiting in settings which allow parents to assume as much parental responsibility as possible and which involve the lowest possible level of formal supervision consistent with the child's safety and well-being.
 Download Part 3 of this Guideline (PDF format, 17 pages, 95k)

Part IV: Guidelines for Choosing a Child’s Permanency Plan (issued May 16, 2001)
A key aspect of ASFA is the requirement that a Permanency Hearing be held in Family Court once a child has been in care for 12 months (and, if necessary, at 12-month intervals after that). Under ASFA, there are only five (5) permissible permanency plans that can be presented to the Family Court judge at the Permanency Hearing: return to parent, adoption, legal guardianship, permanent placement with a fit and willing relative, and "another planned permanent living arrangement" (but ONLY if there is a compelling reason why none of the other ASFA permanency plans is in the child's best interests). The purpose of the Permanency Hearing is to reach a decision on the child's permanent placement. These Guidelines explain each of the five ASFA permanency plans so that participants can knowledgeably prepare for the Permanency Hearing, and can develop and present to the Family Court permanency plans that comply with ASFA.
 Download Part 4 of this Guideline (PDF format, 11 pages, 54k)

Part V: Family-Based Concurrent Planning for Youth with Goals of Independent Living (issued June 12, 2003)
Permanent, nurturing family connections are as critical for adolescents in foster care as they are for younger children. In these Guidelines, ACS calls on all its staff and foster care agency partners to actively participate in a culture shift aimed at ensuring that no youth ages out of foster care without a life-long connection to a caring, committed adult. With family-centered casework and support services, many teens in foster care could be discharged to members of their extended families or find adoptive homes. These Guidelines require high-level ACS sign-off on permanency goal changes to independent living and the creation of family-based concurrent plans for youth with independent living goals. These Guidelines also include a detailed Families for Teens Resource Guide with information on how to access ACS' specialized adoption recruitment agencies, post-reunification and post-adoption services, resources for kinship caregivers, youth development and support services, and ACS' Families for Teens Speakers Bureau.
 Download Part 5 of this Guideline (PDF format, 14 pages, 74k)

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