House Passes Adoption Incentives Package; Senate Expected to Act Soon

The House passed by voice vote last night a bill that could usher in significant reform of the federal role in the adoption of youths in foster care.

The bill, House Resolution 4980, is “expected to be taken up by the Senate sometime next week before Congress leaves for the rest of the summer,” according to the National Foster Care Coalition.

The bill was pre-negotiated by leaders in both chambers, and includes language from six separate bills filed by senators and representatives. The changes, if passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, include:

New Adoption Incentive Awards

H.R. 4980 reauthorizes federal adoption incentives program, which awards states for exceeding certain benchmarks in the finalization of foster youth adoptions.

It replaces the old measurement – which compared current-year adoptions to a state’s performance in 2007 – with a formula that gauges expected adoptions for a year based on recent-year performance. The incentives are paid out based on how far states exceed the expected figure.

The new incentive structure in H.R. 4980 also offers higher incentives for finalized adoptions of older teens, and for the first time includes guardianship arrangements with kin as part of the incentive calculation.

Click here for a complete explanation of the new incentive structure.

Reining in APPLA

Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) is an allowable permanency goal. It was created in the 1990s as an exception for youths for whom there was little or no chance at family reunification or adoption. But recent data suggests that at least 10 percent of foster youth are designated for APPLA.

“We wanted it to be a last resort,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said at a 2012 roundtable discussion about permanency. “Over time,” it has become “an obstacle to reunification or adoption.”

H.R. 4980 would only permit APPLA for foster youths above the age of 15. For those older teens who are designated for APPLA, the legislation requires biannual reviews of their status. Caseworkers will need to demonstrate “unsuccessful efforts made by the state agency” to find another permanent option for the youth.

Tracking Adoption Disruption

H.R. 4980 requires states to track and report disruptions to finalized adoptions and guardianships, one of the biggest blind spots in research on the child welfare system. The few sample studies on the subject suggest that up to 30 percent of adoptions fail.

No method of tracking failed adoptions currently exists. The bill instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a method for collecting data on youths who “enter foster care under supervision of the State after finalization of an adoption or legal guardianship.”

States would also have to spend 30 percent or more of their incentive money on post-adoption and post-guardianship services.

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

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  1. I just met with a CPS manager about my nephew, who is in the process of being adopted by a foster family. From talking with her, it sounds like the standards CPS sets for parents are *very* high,at least at our office. She told me that an adult should know which actions will harm a child before they happen. What she was referring to was an incident where my nephew’s father poked his older half-brother in the chest to get his attention and he lost his balance and fell into a table, getting a bump and a cut. She said that this was reason enough to take my nephew, because adults are liable for all of their actions. My nephew was taken again after a premie baby died in his sleep. The parents’ rights were terminated even before the autopsy came out. She said that this was also correct. She said that unlike the police, CPS doesn’t need reasonable doubt. No one in the family was allowed to take him in, even though his grandmother is paid by the state to be an in-home caregiver, and an aunt has been approved as a foster parent. He is now in the process of being adopted by a family who had applied to the county for a child to adopt. He was given to them months before the parents’ rights were taken, and after an aunt had put in to adopt him. CPS does not need any more incentives to adopt out kids.

  2. What don’t you people get? This entire system need’s to be overhauled. I thought the goal was to RE-UNIFY families with their children. How can this ever be accomplished when CPS is being rewarded for each and every child they remove from their home? It’s a PROVEN fact that CPS does NOT follow Federal mandates. Children are removed for the stupidest reasons and services are not provided to their families. Most parent’s are NEVER criminally charged, yet the removal of their children is worse than the death penalty. Those who are criminally charged often times the charges are dropped due to evidence proving their innocence, but they STILL Never get their children back. Evidence proving innocence is denied admittance in the Family Court’s, parent’s are ordered into programs that don’t exist and “Relative placement is NOT an option,” words of the CPS Supervisor.
    Why in the world would CPS offer services to a family when our Govt. rewards them with Incentive money to remove them and adopt them out? When will the Fed’s get their heads out of the sand and open their eyes to what CPS Nationwide is really doing? Put an end to rewarding CPS for the children they take. They should only be rewarded for the families they keep together. Isn’t it time CPS did the job the Feds are paying them to do? RE-UNITE families? End Title IV funding, blood money for the theft of our children!

    • While I agree with you, Dot Knightly, that the system needs reformed, I don’t think that providing incentives for reuniting families will work either. That may push them to reunite unsafe families. Not all families are innocent, safe, and best for the children. Just because the legal system doesn’t think the particular problem is worth punishing or that enough evidence was found, doesn’t mean that the parents still don’t have work to do in order to be safe for their children and some just refuse to do that work. And yes, the work is sometimes ridiculous and impossible. There absolutely needs to be better guidelines for requirements and making sure that the programs do exist. Relative placement does come with incentives so if it was NOT an option in your case, that was probably because your family didn’t pass the checks. Perhaps the federal government should just let the agencies do their job and be given what they need to do it instead of giving incentives for doing what they should be doing. Then maybe that money could go to actually supporting the children’s needs regardless of what might work in general situations. Adoption incentives do have a purpose though, when it comes to older children especially. Once the child is officially a state-made orphan, for whatever reason, they deserve to have the chance at a permanent and safe family and have their needs taken care of regardless of how much money that family makes. But yes, the entire system needs revising and they’re not even touching the surface with this.

    • Amanda, in the corrupt State of NH, my family wasn’t the only family told Relative placement is not an option. There have been many. And FYI, no checks were ever done. It was take the child and run, period. No relatives were EVER considered. It didn’t matter how good the families were, they weren’t considered.
      Perhaps the Federal Government should start keeping a closer eye on CPS and do monthly audits. You know as well as I do that they’re falsifying paperwork in order to receive their Almighty incentive money. How can the Feds be so blind? Take the incentives away period and then see how many children are taken away from falsely accused parent’s. Abolish CPS while you’re at it and go back to letting the Police handle the REAL cases of child abuse. Even the Police these day’s have a better reputation than CPS.

  3. I think their should be a bill passed in all states as too how many times parents get their children back. It’s heartbreaking seeing children back and forth not once or twice but many times. And then once they have no more choice the child is too old and too traumatize to adopt out and literally age out of the system creating the same never ending cycle. Enough is enough!

    • You don’t have to worry about that in NH. Parents don’t get their children back. One false report is all it takes to lose a child forever. But then you have the truly abused children still suffering in their homes because CPS is too busy railroading innocent families!

  4. The idea of creating a fee to an agency is ridiculous. How about holding parents, birth or adoptive, responsible for their own actions?? Caseworkers can not move in with families and are extremely overworked. How about county governments understanding the importance of child welfare and being required to fill vacancies in a timely manner, so caseworkers can have the resources to do a good job, instead of covering for four vacant jobs including their own? Judges ultimately make decisions about adoptions, return of children home and approval of relatives as resources. Are you aware of how many times judges make orders that go against caseworker recommendations? I am a caseworker and one time removed a child THREE times before the judge allowed him to remain in care. I knew he was not safe. I have had judges place children with relatives or family friends against our wishes, as I knew the child would not be safe. In addition, caseworkers cannot tell what an adoptive parent will do in the future. They make calls based on history, background checks, and interviews. How many people do something multiple times before caught and how many people admit to wanting to adopt to abuse a child? Until you can develop a crystal ball that will tell us this, what more can we do?

    • You are so absolutely right, Lauren. There’s a reason caseworkers have such high turnover. It’s a hard job. There’s never enough resources to do what needs to be done and you get blamed for everyone’s mistakes. That’s what needs to be changed. There should be resources instead of incentives or disincentives. The government should not be parenting the agencies here. They should be trying to do what is best for the kids! Thank you for sticking it out and caring about the kids.

  5. Now both chambers need to act on the making adoption affordable act and make the adoption tax credit refundable once again…

  6. this was just reposted on a Grandparent Raising Gradchildren’s sight and someone immediately ask if this would help “us”. Unfortunately not unless their grandchild was removed by child welfare from the parental home and placed with the Grandparents either from foster care or by the Grandparents becoming licensed foster carer themselves. The majority of Grandparents are raising their Grandchild without the formal system. This happens for several reasons: The family was diverted away from licensing and guardianship was recommended as a way to avoid departmental oversight and involvement, The child was abandoned or voluntarily in the home without child welfare removal, or the Grandparent signed a waiver opting out of formal fostering. I have also seen the trend of offering permanent guardianship to Grandparents or other family members of younger children in order to close an open case. Many times families do not understand that by taking any of these options they are disqualifying themselves from any government support and services for the child and also are not able to receive adoption subsidies or incentives if their cases are closed. The key to this is to give full disclosure of options before the caregiver makes the decision whether to foster or obtain guardianship. Caseworkers need more training in working with relative families in order to guide them to make the most informed decision based on their particular family needs. Relative caregivers, particularly Grandparents, are mostly under served, unsupported and uninformed.

  7. Make sure there’s a fee to the agency or state when a child gets injured or dies from poor adoption parents chosen by the agency, or for reunification back to bad parents.

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