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