Bills in Both Houses to Overhaul Adoption Incentives Program

Both houses of Congress are moving on legislation that would overhaul the federal Adoption Incentives Grant Program.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, submitted the Promoting the Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act late last week.  The bill has the support of fellow committee Republican David Reichert (Wash.) and Democrats Sandy Levin (Mich.) and Lloyd Doggett (Texas).

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) is floating the Strengthening and Finding Families for Children Act. He is circulating a draft and seeking input from stakeholders before dropping it in the hopper.

Both pieces of legislation, in their current states, propose to reauthorize the $43 million-per-year Adoption Incentives Grant Program until 2016 and expand its scope to include guardianship arrangements.

States receive adoption incentive grants based on the difference between the number of adoptions it actually finalizes and  a “base rate.” The base rate quantifies how many adoptions would have been finalized had the state made no improvement based on figures from recent years.

Right now, states receive awards for youths in three categories: $4,000 multiples for younger children and special needs children, plus $8,000 for adoption of children above the age of nine.

The Senate bill would raise the special awards to $4,500, and add an additional $4,000 award for “countable legal guardianships” arranged in the state.

Camp’s House bill would lower the basic incentive grant to $2,000, eliminate the special-needs category, and maintain the older youth award at $8,000. Camp would also insert a $4,000 award for “pre-adolescent” adoptions for youths between nine and 14, and add a $1,000 for guardianship arrangements.

Baucus would require one quarter of adoption incentive funding must be used for family reunification services, the draft bill states, and the remaining 75 percent can supplement any services allowed under the main federal child welfare streams, Title IV-B and Title IV-E. The House bill simply mandates that all the incentive grant funds supplement IV-B and IV-E services.

Both bills would extend the Family Connections grants through 2016 at $15 million per year, and place a flow restriction on some funds from another federal stream, the Adoption Assistance Payments program.

The 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act removed eligibility standards that limited the number of children for which states could receive federal reimbursement through Adoption Assistance Payments.

The Senate bill would require states to calculate the amount they are saving through greater federal reimbursement, and spend at least 40 percent of that savings on post-adoption services. The House version mandates at least 20 percent spending on those services.

Rep. Reichert, who chairs the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, held a hearing in February on ways to increase adoptions from foster care. Among the recommendations voiced by witnesses:

A separate piece of Senate legislation, proposed last week by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would eliminate APPLA for most teens.

Anyone who wishes to provide input on the Baucus Senate bill can E-mail: feedback@finance.senate.gov.

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

12 Comments

  1. An unimpressive 1/4 of $43M adoption incentive to preserve a family but 3/4 goes to promote “steal and sell” kids. The stakes are rising 110%. So our child abuse rate conveniently will, too. When you have that much cash coming in as profit, who’s kids are safe? Proven to increase “child abuse” rates by 26% since the 2008 $3.4M incentive (largest in history) of which $0 goes to preserve a family. In fact there is not a single penny or program that “PRESERVES” a family nor reunifies. Good job America! Our children have become the asset equal only to profit. You’ll give a shit when it hits your life directly. In the mean time you all support the profits at the expense of children and families… its almost indirectly. Not exactly since your fully aware of the issue and choose to support and ignore.

    • I can’t tell you how whole heartedly I agree with you. My family is in the fight of our life with CPS for the return of my grandchildren. Karla Johnson was on target when she wrote Legally Kidnapped. Reunification is not the goal of CPS and our children have become the bargaining chip for the allocation of funds to DES. We are on dangerous ground and I have no respect or love for CPS or the foster care system that has run amok. They do what they want without any regard to the harm and destruction of the children or the family.

  2. The funds however limited go to the care of these children. We could not give our children who we adopted from foster care the extra tutoring, extracurricular activities and experiences without those monthly funds. My husband and I work full time and the money we receive goes to children. We adopted out of love and our truly thankful for adoption assistance in this tough economy. Please don’t limit adoption to only the rich.

    • are you for real? the BIRTH PARENTS don’t get any extra incentives for having the children< WHY should YOU just because you took them away from the ONLY family they KNEW in the first place?! Do you see how WRONG that is? and do you know that as a foster parent you make roughly 3 TIMES as much as a normal welfare family does? give me a break already. you got PAID for adopting and fostering.

    • So you couldn’t give them their biological, ancestral roots to their identities, unless they were kinship adoptions; you couldn’t raise them according to the standards you wanted to without external help; you couldn’t spend much quality time with them b/c you both worked full time. Why do you think you would give them a better home than their original families, would keep their biological and ancestral roots more intact, who oftentimes also love their children, but have some limitations and might benefit from assistance too to keep their family together?

      It sounds like you really, really wanted to be able to adopt them. Does it ever occur to you that your children and their parents/family might have really, really wanted to stay and grow together, and with assistance and compassion they might have been able to? Instead, all of them had to go through an unnatural, permanent (and often traumatic) separation.

    • so basically, sue the parents for “civil child abuse and neglect” the thing is that if these so called bad parents were so abusive then why not put them in prison- are any of the kids parents you stole actually in prison for child endangerment or neglect? or did they just have some real life issues such as poverty or substance use, disability or mental heal issues? THESE ARE NOT CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT—How many of your children you adopted were taken from a single mother with two jobs that had to prove that she did not even own a car worth 1000$ to get the 300$/ per month ( and they do not give more for more kids) cash aid and foodstamps assistance mean while you as a fostercare get to “negotiate” based on the needs of the child. Hey why not spend that money on the mother to begin with ???

  3. it does need to stop they are tearing children from loving homes and adopting them out… make it stop if you cant afford to adopt and care for a child then do not adopt

    • Absolutely correct. This well-intentioned legislation, because it offers no incentives for helping children be returned to their families, has become an incentive to get children *into* the foster system so that they can then be adopted out for cash for the state.

      Impoverished families, without the resources to fight false allegations by the state officials who come into their homes for programs like Babies Can’t Wait, become especially vulnerable to having children, especially special needs children who fetch a high amount, stolen by the state and adopted out to other families.

      I have personally seen it happen, and personally helped support a family whose special needs child was taken into state custody and adopted out in just one month’s time, even though all the other children in the home (including a newborn, and a teen who testified to the absence of any abuse or neglect) were returned to their mother.

  4. Unless you have yourself survived the dire poverty of a foster teen…you do not understand the need for these helps. I have.
    Unless you have tried to raise an FAS child and made the choice to devote the necessary 24 hours a day, which precludes working…you can not imagine how much these monies are needed by these children.. I have.

  5. I am an adoptive mom originally from MI. Our adoption was a direct placement and domestic. I did not adopt to receive a monetary incentive. However, I could’ve benefited from access to post adoption services as he has a birth defect that was not revealed until he was 28 mos. We recently relocated due to the lack of services, including medical, to support and teach me the appropriate interventions to help my son.

  6. finally. stop this legal child trafficking in our country. no one should get PAID CASH to love a child, it will never work

    • they need to stop kidnapping children for a profit in the wallet.. there isnt and should never be a price on love .. to most of the families that are getting there children taking away on lies are torn to pieces while another one gains there child with a payment .. leave our kids with there loving families it isnt cps right to take that away. there not god.

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