The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 was a piece of legislation signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The Act was created in response to problems that the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 didn't cover, such as prolonging the adoption of foster children with special needs. Previously, adoption laws sought to reunite children with their biological parents without regard to the child's health or needs that may have been jeopardized in the parents' household prior to when protective services intervened.
With reunification being the primary goal for foster children, kids were staying in the system for years or until they were legal adults and "aged out" of the system. Few children were being adopted, yet many were stuck in a gray space of understanding where they belonged. The law also increased the allotment of $20 million that could be used as incentive for people to adopt children with special needs from the foster care system. And it has worked.
Now, about half of the children in foster care today are waiting for reunification with their biological parents and a quarter waiting for adoption. Few children were even considered for adoption before then. And even today, the court proceedings to involuntarily terminate a parent's rights can take up to two years.
Within two years of ASFA's passage, nearly all states increased their number of adoptions.