Protecting the Rights of Incarcerated Parents and Their Children

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The Women in Prison Project has made an important advance in its efforts to lessen the harsh effects of New York’s Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) on incarcerated parents. ASFA almost always requires foster care agencies to file a termination of parental rights proceeding if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months. These shortened timeframes, and the unavoidable difficulties incarcerated parents face in meeting legal requirements to maintain contact with and plan for their children, place them at disproportionate risk of losing parental rights to their children forever. Working with members of the Coalition for Women Prisoners’ Incarcerated Mothers Committee, WIPP helped draft new legislation that would expand foster care agencies’ discretion to delay filing termination papers in cases where a parent is incarcerated or in a residential substance abuse treatment program, even after the 15 month deadline has been reached. Having more time would give incarcerated parents and their children a better opportunity to work toward reunification and safe permanency options that do not involve severing family bonds forever. The bill, A.8465-A, was introduced by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, Chair of the Corrections Committee.