Policy 101: Adoption

Although foster care is an important safety net for some children, it was intended to be a temporary arrangement. Children have a better opportunity for growing and developing when they are living with a safe family on a permanent basis. Reunifying children with their families from foster care is a top priority for case workers, however, when that is not possible, federal statute directs that children should be placed with permanent families through adoption or guardianship.

Adotions from Foster Care are supported by the goverment in two ways: 

Adoption Assistance - Created by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-89), federal adoption assistance is offered to some special needs children when they are adopted from foster care. Currently, the adoption assistance is available only when the special needs children come from birth families who were poor enough to have qualified for welfare benefits under income eligibility standards of 1996, or the child meets the disability and income standards of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which requires that the child have a significant disability and be low income. The Adoption Equality Act of 2007 would help promote the adoption of foster children with special needs by removing the requirement that an income eligibility determination be made, making all children in foster care who meet the definition of “special needs” eligible for critically important federal adoption assistance.

Adoption Incentives - Also created by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-89), the adoption incentives program was designed to promote and increase the number of adoptions from foster care, by rewarding states that continued to better their adoption numbers each year. In 1997, there were 31,000 adoptions from foster care nationwide. A year after the program was created, that number grew to nearly 47,000 adoptions. In 2006, approximately 51,000 children were adopted from our nation’s foster care system. The federal government authorizes approximately $43 million for the program each year, but because of the structure of earning the incentives, just 19 states were able to claim bonuses in 2006 for just over $7 million. The program expires September 20, 2008.

Relevant Legislation:

* The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (H.R. 6893)

* The Adoption Equality Act (S. 1462 / H.R. 4091) * The Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act (S. 3038)

* The Fostering Connections to Success Act (H.R. 6307) * The Invest in Kids Act (H.R. 5466)

* The Tribal Foster Care and Adoption Access Act of 2007 (S. 1956 / H.R. 4688)