By Ashley Albert
Special To The Medium
My name is Ashley Albert and I am a Parent Leader. I want to raise awareness about a federal law that has devastated Black, Indigenous and People of Color’s (BIPOC) children and families. The Adoption Safe Families Act (ASFA), written by Former Senator and current President Joe Biden, was passed in 1997 by the Clinton Administration. Its intent was to improve the safety of children, and to not leave children lingering in foster care. It promoted adoptions and other permanent homes for children.
Under ASFA, states receive millions of dollars for exceeding the average number of adoptions their states complete in specified years. But this provides different outcomes for different families. To further promote adoptions, ASFA stipulates that courts can terminate the rights of birth parents whose children are in foster care within two years. This controversial provision within this law is called the “15-22 rule”. If a child has been in foster care for 15 out of 22 months, states must move to terminate the biological parents’ rights. This mandate hinders birth parents from regaining their parental rights even when they are in positions to provide a safe, permanent home environment for their children.
This law, and how it is carried out, disproportionately moves children from lower-income families of color to middle and upper-income White families, which destroys the former for the benefit of the latter, and harms both the individuals and the communities involved. In 2016, I was told to sign an open adoption agreement in order to maintain a relationship with my kids. I was told that if I didn’t sign the papers that I would never see my kids again. I signed the papers on January 5, 2016 in hopes of maintaining a relationship with my children. I went to court to enforce and modify the open adoption agreement, and successfully won. However, it took one year and eleven months before I would be able to see my children again. At the same time, I found out that my daughter’s name had been changed, which, according to the original agreement, they were not supposed to do. Before signing the papers, I noted two things I wanted written in the Open Adoption Agreement. 1. DO NOT CHANGE THE CHILDREN’S NAMES! 2. To have visitation. I have been having a hard time getting support to have the adoptive mom abide by the order. I would have never signed the agreement if my kid’s names were going to be changed. I felt betrayed because I only relinquished my constitutional rights to parent on the specific condition that my child’s name would not be changed. My rights were violated when the name was changed and visits withheld. There is no accountability or responsibility to the harm my family and I have suffered because of this. King County Superior Court found there to be a breach of contract by the adoptive mom and other parties, and allowed me to file a tort claim with the state of Washington against the Dept. of Children, Youth and Families for violating my constitutional rights as a parent. I filed a claim in January 2021, but to date, I have received little or no support from state agencies that I believed were supposed to help people in my situation.
I currently serve as a member of the steering committee for the national “Repeal ASFA” Campaign. The campaign is still in its very early stages of development, moving slow and steady. A “campaign strategist/coordinator” will be hired at the end of this month to help shape and lead this movement. I am a part of creating the mission and vision of this national campaign, reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, and creating an onboarding process for new members to apply. The campaign will bring coalitions across all 50 states, centering on the voice of those directly impacted. This movement is about repealing punitive laws that are harmful to BIPOC families, and promoting restorative justice practices between Government and communities so that we can live in a world where the blessings of liberty are secured for ourselves and our prosperity.
We need more BIPOC families to know about this issue and join the movement to repeal the ASFA. ASFA does not protect our families or provide our parents with enough time to heal. This mandate hinders birth parents from regaining their parental rights even when they are in positions to provide a safe, permanent home environment for their children.
If you would like more information or to get involved, please follow the “@repealasfa” page on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Ashley Albert is mother of three children, has served as a leader in advocacy for parents entangled in the family regulation system, and has spent years educating and advocating on behalf of parents through the legal system, parent programs, and advocacy committees.