Putting Reason Back into the Reasonable Efforts Requirement in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases
Cristine H. Kim   |   1999 U. Ill. L. Rev.

In 1980, Congress passed the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (AACWA) to prevent the unnecessary placement of children in foster care. AACWA requires states to make reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of children from their homes and, after removal, make reasonable efforts to reunify the family. Reasonable efforts, however, was left undefined by Congress and, thus, gave no clear guidance to states regarding the quantity or length of efforts to be made before moving abused and neglected children to permanent placements. As a result, AACWA actually increased the number of children in foster care. To clarify the reasonable efforts standard, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA).

This note evaluates the likely impact ASFA will have on the application of the reasonable efforts standard. The author begins with an overview of AACWA, including an explanation of the reasonable efforts provision. This is followed by an examination of the treatment of reasonable efforts under federal and state law. Next, the author considers the changes made by ASFA and analyzes their effect on child welfare laws. The author concludes that ASFA will improve the clarity of the reasonable efforts standard.