How the federal law will shake down in Pennsylvania
It will probably be this time next year before Pennsylvania files its first batch of termination petitions for children who've been in foster care 15 months or longer.
That's because the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act gave states time to comply with that requirement. Pennsylvania, and most other states, will have to pass their own laws requiring those petitions, and about half the states are unlikely to do that before the federal deadline at year's end.
After that, they may begin filing the termination petitions in phases, beginning with one-third of their backlog six months after the legislation passes. In Pennsylvania, that's likely to be June 1999.
That gives the state more than a year to figure out how to deal with that flood of backlogged cases threatening the already overwhelmed juvenile courts.
In Allegheny County, for example, about 300 petitions would have to be filed in the first six months. This is in a county that last year broke an all-time record when it completed 350 terminations -- and that was over 12 months.