Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, March 6, 2006

Adoption and Safe Families Act and Mothers in Prison

"Mothers in prison often have sentences long enough that they run afoul of a 1997 federal adoption law and they lose all parental rights--no letters, no phone calls, no birthday cards allowed. . . . In late 1996, Spruill began serving a five-year sentence in an Illinois prison for various property crimes that stemmed from drug abuse. One of her sons was placed in foster care. Another, born in prison, followed. But Spruill was determined to eventually reunite with her children, so she began rehabilitating herself, taking parenting-skills courses and undergoing substance-abuse treatment.Her efforts appeared to pay off. After two years, Spruill was released into a halfway home and she began the necessary court proceedings to get her kids back. There, however, she encountered the Adoption and Safe Families Act, a federal law passed in 1997 that requires states to move to sever a parent's right to a child after he or she has spent 15 months in foster care.

"Too little, too late," is what a state attorney told her. After waging a legal battle for almost a year, she surrendered her parental rights in 2000 so that her sons' foster parents could adopt them." By Ann Farmer, Women'sENews Link to Article (last visited 3-5-06 NVS)

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