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Freeing Children for Adoption within the Adoption and Safe Families Act Timeline

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Permanency, that is ensuring children have long-term, enduring connections to family or other caring adults, is one of the three primary goals of the child welfare system, along with safety and child well-being. In order to achieve permanency for children in foster care who are unlikely to return home, federal law requires, with limited exceptions, that state child welfare agencies file for termination of parental rights (TPR) for children who remain in foster care for at least 15 of the previous 22 months. TPR is necessary before another family may adopt the child. This study explores how frequently states make exceptions to this timeline and highlights issues behind states' difficulties in achieving timely permanency for children. Two reports describe the findings. The first report discusses quantitative findings based on analysis of federal administrative data, and finds considerable variation among states both in the frequency with which children entering foster care experience TPR, and in the likelihood that TPR is conducted timely. The second report analyzes findings from state monitoring visits and data from key informant interviews with officials and stakeholders in three states and describes themes regarding barriers to TPR and timely adoption.

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