House Passes Adoption Incentive Bill; Action Moves to Senate

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan-sponsored bill that would reauthorize and recalculate the federal incentives to states for finalizing adoptions.

The Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act, authored by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and passed 402-0 yesterday, would lower the basic adoption incentive grant to $2,000, and maintain the older youth award at $8,000.

Under the current system, 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 bill eliminates the special-needs award, and inserts two new categories: a $4,000 award for “pre-adolescent” adoptions for youths between nine and 14, and a $1,000 award for guardianship arrangements.

There is no related bill in the hopper on the Senate side at the moment, but Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Montana) recently floated a draft bill for comment and is expected to submit an adoption incentive reauthorization soon.

“The bottom line is this: Children in foster care deserve a place to call home, not just for a few months or years but for good,” Camp said in a statement on the Ways and Means website. “We have already seen great progress in increasing adoptions since the adoption incentive program was created in 1997, and it is our hope that we can continue this progress with this bill.”

The bill is paid for by requiring states to reduce federal income tax refunds when someone wrongly gets an overpayment of unemployment benefits, which Camp anticipates will pay for the legislation and save the government $24 million.

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

The Baucus bill would also 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.

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.

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

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  1. Baucus requirement for minimum percentage of award to be directed to post services is good. I believe it is even more important that standards make state awards proportionately dependent on success of adoptive placements (pertaining to disruption and dissolution rates). Placement failures are disastrous for children, and I understand those rates are often very high for these particular children.

  2. When I adopted in Los Angeles, I had no idea the county paid a monthly [AAP] stipend. Since that time my children have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. The effort and time it takes in therapies and doctor visits have made it impossible for me to earn a living without that stipend. I can’t imagine a good reason for them to diminish this funding source, as funding children in foster care, especially group homes, means spending 5 -10x more money that helping them live in a permanent family.

  3. It is troubling that the special needs adoption assistance grants are targeted for elimination. Over half of children in foster care have developmental disabities and a majority have mental health problems. Adoption of these children requires dedication and knowledge. Adoptive parents must have access to resources that can help these children. It’s important to recognize the reality of these children’s lives and needs– they have disabities that must be addressed!

    • Sheryl Dicker, the reason by the Special Needs category was eliminated, was because in states such as California, ALL children in foster care were considered to be ‘Special Needs.’ The money comes in the form of a tax credit or credits, and experience has shown that the majority of adoption workers, at least in this county, have no idea that such credits were/are available.
      And most generic accountants don’t either. Accountants often confuse the credits with tax write offs from costs incurred during the process of adopting. Which is completely separate. This means that many foster adopt parents, are missing out on available funds.

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