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Repealing the Adoption and Safe Families Act

November 21, 2022

“ASFA dealt a devastating blow to Black families,” and the time to repeal the Clinton-Era law is now, writes Prof. Dorothy E. Roberts.

At Slate, Dorothy E. Roberts, the George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, advocates the repeal of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

Roberts, an acclaimed scholar of race, gender, and the law is the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society in the Center for Africana Studies. Her book Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families — And How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, draws on decades of her research and scholarship, builds upon her previous groundbreaking book, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, and reveals that the child welfare system is yet another punitive way the government treats Black mothers; Black children are disproportionately torn from their families and placed in foster care, interfering with their education, social relationships, and well-being and driving many to juvenile detention and imprisonment.

From Slate:

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Promoted as a way to rescue children — especially Black children — languishing in America’s overloaded foster system, ASFA has had the opposite impact. By speeding up termination of parents’ rights, it has dramatically increased the chances that Black families, which are disproportionately separated by state child welfare authorities, will be permanently torn apart. The dissolution of children’s legal relationship with their parents is known as the civil death penalty because it is the ultimate punishment family courts can impose. ASFA was marketed using racist rhetoric that vilified impoverished Black mothers and demeaned their bonds with their children. Its passage was part of a legislative assault on government assistance to Black families that held out adoption as the solution to Black children’s hardships. I have investigated the harms the child welfare system inflicts on Black families for more than two decades and have witnessed how ASFA intensifies the system’s targeting of Black communities for disruption. It is time to repeal this destructive law… .

Roberts’ other books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. She also penned “Race,” a chapter in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, focusing on race as a construct and the historical regulation of Black women’s bodies.

Roberts joined the University of Pennsylvania as its 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology and the Law School. She is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters as well as a co-editor of six books on topics such as constitutional law and women and the law.

Read Roberts’ full article at Slate.