Child Welfare Ideas from the Experts #6: Growing the Pool of Adoptive Parents

Alex Oleson, 20, a student at St. Louis University. Photo by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

The Chronicle of Social Change is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 12 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.

The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the FYI participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.

Today we highlight the recommendation of Alex Oleson, 20, a student at St. Louis University.

The Proposal

Oleson makes recommendations aimed at increasing the recruitment and support of people willing to provide a permanent home to youth in foster care.

He would allow states to implement “evidence-based recruitment models to improve permanency outcomes,” and commission a national survey to gain more perspective on the challenges we face as a country in finding permanency for some youth. Oleson would also make the adoption tax credit fully refundable.

The Argument

Oleson argues that there is a “limited” understanding of what works “when it comes to achieving successful permanency.” Meanwhile, he said, there is a misconception that most adoptive families are affluent, when “46 percent of children adopted from foster care live in families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.”

In Their Own Words

“My parents aren’t wealthy, so my mother sought out resources that benefitted our well-being, such as tuition assistance, financial assistance, athletics and extracurricular activities. Supports like these are important for all youth in families and are especially important for families who are seeking to adopt.”

The Chronicle’s Take

We aren’t quite sure what Oleson means by “allowing states to implement evidence-based

Boundless Futures, the most recent set of policy proposals from the Foster Youth Internship Program

recruitment models to improve permanency outcomes.” States are certainly free to do so now, so presumably that is a call for some federal money going in that direction – perhaps either through the administrative costs covered by Title IV-E, the main conduit of federal dollars to child welfare systems? Or perhaps with some more dollars added to the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program, which already does allow for spending on recruitment?

Either way, a key piece of this puzzle is building up an evidence base, because there is a lack of knowledge about what really works in recruiting foster and adoptive parents. Oleson name-checks one of the programs that does have a record of impact: Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, which subsidizes and trains adoption workers that focus on older youth and kids with more complex needs. The program is already undergoing a national expansion of sorts with a big philanthropic bet from the Blue Meridian Partners.

Oleson’s call for a refundable adoption tax credit is one with some legislative backers already. A bill to make the credit refundable was introduced this summer.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1136 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.