Washington, DC - On Tuesday May 20, 2008, Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa) introduced the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008. This new legislation champions permanency for children in foster care by reauthorizing the successful Adoption Incentive Program that encourages states to finalize more adoptions from foster care, ensures that all foster children with special needs can receive vital federal assistance, and provides federal guardianship support for grandparents and other relatives who want to provide a permanent home for the children they are raising.
Since the inception of the Adoption Incentive Program in 1998, nearly 444,000 children have been adopted from foster care. During the same period, states have received more than $211 million in adoption incentives for increasing the number of adoptions from foster care; federal law requires incentive payments to be invested back into a state's child welfare system. The program is scheduled to expire in September of this year.
“Although foster care is an important safety net, children often languish for too long in our system,” said Marci McCoy-Roth, Officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts. “When reunification with their parents isn't possible, we should be doing all we can to help these children leave foster care through adoption or guardianship. We applaud Senator Grassley's efforts to ensure that more of the half million children in foster care will find the stable families they deserve.”
The Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008 extends the Adoption Incentive Program through 2013 and establishes a new base year for incentive payments to states. Under the original program, after a significant initial increase in adoptions, a number of states could no longer receive the incentive. The measure also increases the payments to states for finalizing adoptions of special needs children and children over age 9. In addition, the bill creates a payment for states that exceed the state's highest rate of all adoptions from foster care.
The new legislation would further encourage the adoption of children with special needs by de-linking eligibility for federal adoption assistance, making all children with special needs eligible to receive this support. Under current law, only children removed from families meeting the outdated 1996 AFDC income standard are eligible for adoption assistance. This requirement has resulted in a steady erosion of federal support for adoptions of special needs children.
The Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008 supports an important pathway to permanence by allowing states to receive federal reimbursement for payments made to legal relative guardians caring for children for whom reunification with their birth parents or adoption are not options and who would otherwise remain in foster care. The measure establishes a broad range of information and notification requirements for relatives once a child has been place in care and allows funds from the Adoption Incentive program to be made available to states that successfully help children leave foster care for permanent homes with relatives.
“My adoptive family has been a pillar of support, shaping me in many ways and making life so much easier,” said Daniel Knapp, who was in foster care for five years. “The sad thing is that my story is not the norm. It should be.”
ABOUT THE KIDS ARE WAITING CAMPAIGN: Kids Are Waiting: Fix Foster Care Now is a national, nonpartisan campaign dedicated to promoting foster care reform. Led by The Pew Charitable Trusts, an ever-growing number of local, state and national partners are working together so that our most vulnerable children don't spend their childhoods waiting in foster care for the families they deserve.