It’s budget season…

Reports have been published that show spending money on children and youth in foster care today will save significantly in the future by lowering rates of incarceration, welfare dependence, homelessness, and the need for other public services.  However, elected officials are not looking years down the road when they are plagued by such budget shortfalls today.

Here on the Hill and in states and localities across the nation it’s budget season.  Last month President Obama sent his proposed FY2012 budget to Congress.  However, Congress hasn’t yet passed a spending bill for the remaining 7 months of FY 2011.  Just yesterday they passed a continuing resolution for 2 weeks to avoid a federal government shutdown set to take place this Friday.

With all of the uncertainty surrounding federal spending, and the vast state and local budget shortfalls, one thing is for sure–child welfare programs are at risk.

While ultimately budget decisions are left up to Congress, the President’s budget proposes slight decreases in overall discretionary funding for child welfare programs.  First Focus released a report outlining the proposed changes to child welfare funding.  “Among the most notable aspects of the budget is the inclusion of an increase in funding of $250 million in mandatory funds in FY 2012 to support a reform agenda focused on providing incentives to states to improve outcomes for children in foster care and those who are receiving in-home services from the child welfare system. This increase is part of the Administration’s broader proposal to provide $2.5 billion over ten years to support a comprehensive child welfare reform proposal aimed at making improvements in the foster care system to prevent child abuse and neglect and keep more children safely in their homes and out of long-term foster care.”

Elected officials across our nation are met with the challenge of funding necessary services and programs to serve the needs of their constituents.  It is important to remember that budgets are not really a matter of dollars and cents, but a matter of how the well-being of lives will ultimately be impacted.  A good reminder of this is a quote by Hubert H. Humphrey which is imprinted on the wall at the U.S. Health and Human Services building, “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

In an op ed byPaul Krugman appearing in the New York Times, Krugman raises some tough questions about the impact of budgets and spending on America’s children.  “When advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.”  While Krugman discusses the child population in general, we all know that children and youth in foster are even more vulnerable to poor outcomes and have a higher level of need for government programs.

Krugman asks, “The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?”

Photo Credit: photographer Vik Orenstein

Breaking down the barriers to adoption

Yesterday, I shared with you the heart-warming story of one of CCAI’s Angels in Adoption who, because of the International Adoption Simplification Act, are now able to adopt the two older siblings in a group of nine brothers and sisters.  Prior to this law, intercountry adoption policy prevented children 16 and older from being adopted.  This new law allows children up to age 18 to be adopted along with their half or full siblings who are under the age of 16.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) who introduced this bill joined the family on FOX News earlier today to talk about this law and what it means to them.

An article came out today that further explains this new law, along with information about another new adoption bill, the Help Haiti Act.  The Help Haiti Act provides an adjustment of status to ensures citizenship for the Haitian children who were provided with Humanitarian Parole following the January 12th, 2010 earthquake.

Legislative Update: what’s happening in Congress this week

As part of CCAI’s efforts to educate federal policymakers about children in need of families, CCAI tracks legislation related to foster care and adoption.  For the updated list of all pending legislation in the 111th Congress related to these issues, click here.  Please note, CCAI does not take a stand on any particular piece of legislation, rather, we serve as an educational resource to policymakers and advocates.

The Child Welfare League of America highlighted two pieces of legislation in their most recent Children’s Monitor newsletter: the Title IV-E Waiver bill H.R. 6156 which renews the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to approve demonstration projects designed to test innovative strategies in state child welfare programs; and the the CAPTA reauthorization bill S. 3817 which amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the Family Violence and Services Act, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act of 1978, and the Abandoned Infants Assistant Act of 1988 to reauthorize the Acts.

Today on the Floor, the House is expected to pass H. Res. 1648 Supporting the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by promoting national awareness of adoption and the children in foster care awaiting families.  A similar Senate version S. Res. 291 is also expected to be passed this week.

Yesterday, the House passed the International Adoption Simplification Act S. 1376.  In a press release announcing this bill will now head to the president to be signed into law, the following explanation of the legislation was given: The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Klobuchar (D-MN) and cosponsored by Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), would allow U.S. parents to adopt children who are siblings, even if one of those children is between the ages of 16 and 18, and help protect children’s health during the adoption process.  The bill would restore two exemptions to U.S. immigration law for internationally adopted children that were eliminated when the United States began implementation of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

Russia and Guatemala: a legislative update


In May 2010, a large number of families representing the Guatemala 900, an advocacy network for families whose cases still await processing, came to Washington, D.C. and held a briefing for Members of Congress. During this briefing, adoptive families laid out reasons why these cases continue to be delayed as well as ways Members of Congress might act on their behalf. Motivated by the passion and commitment of these families, several members including Senators Boxer (D-CA), Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator Feingold (D-WI) have been actively engaged in efforts to unite these families with their children. In late June, 76 Members signed a letter to President Colom and three other high ranking officials asking for them to take immediate action to resolve these cases.


Over the past several months, the U.S. State Department has been involved in negotiations with officials in Russia . These negotiations have been focused on coming to a memorandum of understanding between the two countries on additional safeguards that can be put in place to better protect adopted children and their families. For the most part, the dialogue between the two countries, has been positive and it is hoped a final agreement can be reached and signed soon. The events leading up to the current situation in Russia, most notably the case of the 8 year old returned to Russia by his adoptive mom, has prompted Members of Congress to introduce legislation to strengthen pre- and post-adoption support services for American adoptive families. The Supporting Adoptive Families Act (introduced by Senators Landrieu (D-LA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Brownback (R-KY) and Johnson (D-SD) would develop and expand training and resources for families adopting domestically or internationally, ensuring that both parents and children have the assistance and care they need to remain together. The bill would also address the current shortage of adoption services available to families prior to and following adoptions.

Immigration, Accreditation, and Intercountry Adoption

In continuing with our series of legislative updates on international adoption, read below to learn about immigration and accreditation:

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has been working on passing a piece of legislation entitled the “International Adoption Simplification Act” (S. 1376). Under current law, children adopted from non-Hague countries are able to waive certain immigration-related immunization requirements. Also, children adopted from non-Hague countries who are between the ages of 16 and 18 are eligible for an orphan visa so long as they are being adopted as part of a sibling group. Under Klobuchar’s bill, adoptees adopted from Hague countries would be afforded these same protections. S. 1376 passed the Senate on July 26, 2010 and has been sent to the House for its consideration.  On June 21st, 2010, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the “International Adoption Harmonization Act” which allows an adopted child to legally immigrate so long as the adoption is completed and the petition is filed before the child turns 18.  This bill would also allow children adopted from Hague countries to be exempted from certain immigration related vaccination requirements. This bill passed the House of Representatives on July 20th, 2010 and is awaiting Senate consideration.

Over the last year, several Members of Congress, most notably Senators Lugar (R-IN), Landrieu (D-LA) and Inhofe (R-OK) and Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ) have been studying the issue of fraud and abuse within intercountry adoption. In an effort to better understand this issue, these members have held several meetings and community-wide discussions about the degree to which corruption is a part of the current system and ways that federal law might be used as a shield against such abuses. As a result of these efforts, Congressman Albio Spires has announced his intent to sponsor legislation that would require all adoption agencies, regardless of whether they work in a Hague or Non-Hague country, to be accredited by the U.S. State Department. Often referred to as “universal accreditation,” such a proposal would do away with the dualtrack system currently in place in the United States and replace it with a universal system of standards.