How the Adoption Incentives Program can Incentivize Adoptions

Today, the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing to review the success of several privately run programs to increase the number of children adopted out of foster care. This marks the beginning of the committee’s efforts to review—and hopefully reauthorize—a federal program entitled the Adoption Incentives Program.  Originally created in 1997 as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, the Adoption Incentives Program has delivered a total of $375 million in bonuses to states that were successful in increasing the number of children adopted out of foster care.

Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means Adoption Incentives Hearing.
Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means Adoption Incentives Hearing.

Since the inception of the Adoption Incentives Program, more than half a million children found their forever homes. Despite this success, however, over 100,000 foster children are still waiting to be adopted.  If trends continue, approximately 50% of these children will succeed in finding homes through adoption and 50% will continue to wait.  Statistics reveal that those who remain waiting are most often older children, members of larger sibling groups or those children who have special physical or mental health needs.  In fact, according to a the most recent AFCARS report, the average age of a child adopted out of foster care is 6, while the average age of a child waiting to be adopted out of care is 8.

So the question before Congress is this: how can the federal government incentivize states to find a home for every child? The programs highlighted in today’s committee hearing prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no such thing as an unadoptable child, just an unfound family.   There are at least three lessons to learn from these programs’ experiences.

  • States cannot employ “a one-size-fit-all” strategy for finding a permanent home for a child.  Efforts to recruit an adoptive family for a child must be as diverse as the children themselves.
  • States that have succeeded in finding homes for older and special needs children have done so in close partnership with community and faith-based partners.  Such partnerships allow state child welfare agencies to be more innovative in their approach; address critical workforce gaps; increase their reach into communities where perspective adoptive parents are likely to be found; and provide post- adoption support.
  • Finally, success in finding an adoptive family for every child who needs one is premised on the belief that all children need and deserve a family

If Congress hopes to replicate the successes of the types of programs highlighted today it must learn from these lessons and better incorporate them into the current Adoption Incentives Program.  Congress might also want to consider whether the current model of providing an individual bonus per adoption is the best way to incentivize adoption for older and special needs children. Perhaps this group would be better served by a model similar to the Department of Education’s “Race to the Top,” a federally-funded contest which provides funds to states that successfully put forward groundbreaking, thoughtful plans to address four key educational reform areas.  While the full effects of “Race to the Top” remain to be seen, preliminary findings indicate that it has been successful in spurring innovation and improving in educational outcomes. A similar approach might better incentivize states to be more innovative by providing more concentrated support for their efforts to find homes for harder to place children.

Another idea might be to use the adoption bonuses as a way to incentivize certain policies and practices that have been proven effective in finding homes for children. For instance, provide rewards to states that use adoption recruiters as opposed to making finding an adoptive family one of the many tasks assigned to an overloaded caseworker.  Or grant bonuses to states that severely limit the use of an alternative planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) for older youth.  Under this approach, the federal government might use the “carrot approach” to reward states that provide robust post adoption services, reduce the amount of time between termination of parental rights and the completion of adoption and engage in interstate adoptions.

We would like to thank Chairman Reichert for his leadership in dedicating the first subcommittee hearing of the 113 congress to such an important and impactful topic. We look forward to working with Members of Congress to explore these and other ways this important program might better serve its stated goal: to find families for waiting children.

Published by

ccainstitute

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

7 thoughts on “How the Adoption Incentives Program can Incentivize Adoptions

  1. Oh My Goodness! What a win for foster children in America. Thank you CCAI for advocating for America’s forgotten children. YES! Every child deserves a family of their own. The foundation of life is “Family”, when you take that away, there’s nothing. Nothing but a deep dark pit that lives in the center of every foster child’s heart. Only the unconditional love of ‘Family’ will ever fill that hole. Well…….. earthly any way. I was never adopted and I’ve lived with that deep dark hole my entire life. But that’s ok, because today, today…… I am fabulous! You see CCAI believed in me and honored me with a congressional award. They believed in me and that has given me the strength, courage and confidence to continue to fight as hard as I possibly can for America’s forgotten foster children. http://www.fromfostertofabulous.com This is only the beginning! Can I get a ‘You Bet’ CCAI? Together, (all of us) we WILL move mountains!

  2. I bet if they continued to leave the Adoption Credit “Refundable” more of us that are not wealthy would be able to adopt as we dont generally use that money to make ourselves rich but to build additions on homes, buy bigger vehicles all so that adopting another child out of the system is possible. Giving bonus to the state itself where states have a problem using the money that they already have may not be the issue. They need to make sure the families actaually adopting have the resources to do more adoptions. Just my opinion on the matter. Not only that, we need to caution the way that it is done. We need to make sure that they are not adopting children to families to get the bonus. They should be making every effort to do that already.

  3. The article doesn’t mention whether there is a plan to address one of the most significant contributors to the older age of children available for adoption out of foster care. The real problem stems from the foster care system that encourages multiple years worth of chances for biological parents to get their lives together before they move forward with terminating parental rights and making the child “adoptable” in the first place. Congress’ approach of providing incentives is not addressing the cause of the problem and therefore unlikely to work. Congress would do better to form a task force of people who have adopted from foster care, former state social workers and other people who are really ‘in the know’ about this issue to really come up with a viable plan that would have a chance of helping these kids.

  4. I bet if they continued to leave the Adoption Credit “Refundable” more of us that are not wealthy would be able to adopt as we dont generally use that money to make ourselves rich but to build additions on homes, buy bigger vehicles all so that adopting another child out of the system is possible. Giving bonus to the state itself where states have a problem using the money that they already have may not be the issue. They need to make sure the families actaually adopting have the resources to do more adoptions. Just my opinion on the matter. Not only that, we need to caution the way that it is done. We need to make sure that they are not adopting children to families to get the bonus. They should be making every effort to do that already….

  5. Adoptive parents who require payment and financial incentives to adopt a child may not be making a life-long commitment. Congress needs to spend some money on investigation of what happens to children after subsidized adoption, when the child becomes a legal adult and payments end. Twenty two year old adults need families too. Many of the 103,000 children waiting for adoption have lost connection with their birth families through termination of parental rights, based upon an expectation that they will be more adoptable if “freed” for adoption. Funds that used to be directed to assisting birth families are redirected to adoption incentives. If adoption never happens, or the commitment only lasts until the subsidy runs out, is this really a good investment?

  6. I think the incentive program reall sucks, espicall when the steal childrenof whom have famlies that are totally capable and able to take care of them. In my case they committed perjury ( Federal offense, Falsfied reports — that are to be under penality of Perjury ( Federal offense). used 3 other peoples C.P.S. history and said it was mine ( Illegal), committed slander (Illegal), broke many laws
    ( Illegal) there is probably things, I had a grevience review which by law I should have never had, but didn’t know at the time, I am forgetting that they have done, I don’t have a C,P,S, I don’t have a C.P.S. I even sent proof to them, they chose to ignore that. Ther is a law that says if your not in the Child Abuse Central Index, which I’m not you can’t be denied and I was. I have had Grand Children placed with me by C.P.S. and 2 times by probate court. I also look at that C.P.S. is also committimg Fraude against the goverment by Kidnapping, kid jacking and stealing children by their illgal doings.

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