December 8, 2003
Following the close of another National Adoption Month in November, President Bush signed the Adoption Promotion Act (APA) last Tuesday.
The APA reauthorizes the Adoption Incentive Program, which substantially improved the performance of the child-welfare system and led to dramatic increases in adoptions out of foster care over the last five years. Enacted in 1997 as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), the program provides states with incentive payments for each child adopted above the baseline.
- Since the Adoption Incentives' enactment, adoptions out of foster care rose from 31,000 in 1997 to 51,000 in 2002.
- From 1998 to 2002, an average of more than 13,000 additional children per year -- more than 65,000 additional children in all -- were adopted than would have been otherwise.
- Over the same five-year period, more than 235,000 foster children were adopted, about the same number as were adopted in the previous 10.
The APA also establishes additional incentive payments for adoptions of children age 9 and older, who now make up half the children in foster care. By age 9, a foster child's likelihood of continuing in care exceeds the likelihood of being adopted. Increased incentive payments for adoptions of older children will enable many more of them to enjoy the loving, permanent families all children deserve.
At the end of fiscal year 2002, 532,698 children remained in foster care -- 116,653 of them waiting to be adopted. Other measures to promote adoption should include: increased efforts to recruit and prepare parents to adopt foster children; performance-based measures to hold family courts accountable for allowing children to be adopted at younger ages; and increased flexibility for states to direct their federal welfare dollars toward the particular needs of their foster care populations.
Finding good families for these deserving children is a solvable problem, says Thomas Atwood, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption. If the child-welfare system will continue to promote adoption, American families have enough heart to provide loving, permanent homes for them.
Source: Thomas Atwood, "Promoting adoption," Washington Times, December 5, 2003.
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