Sunday, December 21, 2014

Adoption Assistance

This is odd.  I was browsing the amounts of the 126 federal welfare and anti-poverty programs, and to my surprise saw that #23 in dollar amount was "Adoption Assistance." $2,480,000,000. $2.5 billion for adoption assistance? Right up there with the School breakfast program, $2.9 billion.  Part of the $7,256,000,000 the federal budget allows for fostering and permanency for children, #17 on the list.

“Key federal programs supporting child welfare services include Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, Guardianship Assistance, Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, Child Welfare Services state grants, Child Welfare Research, Training and Demonstration, CAPTA state grants, the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants, Abandoned Infants Assistance, Adoption Opportunities, and Adoption Incentives.”

So I Googled, and found that this is money for adopting special needs children. Each state seems to have similar requirements—the child can have physical or mental handicaps, black children are younger than white to be included, in custody of the state, can’t be returned to biological family, adopting family can be a relative, etc.

Federal description

Adoption Assistance – The Adoption Assistance program provides funds to states to subsidize families that adopt children with special needs who cannot be reunited with their families, thus preventing long, inappropriate stays in foster care. This is consistent with ACF's goals to improve healthy development, safety, and well-being of children and youth and to increase the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and youth. To receive adoption assistance benefits, a child must have been determined by the state to be a special needs child, e.g., older, a member of a minority or sibling group, or have a physical, mental, or emotional disability. Additionally, the child must have been: 1) unable to return home, and the state must have been unsuccessful in its efforts to find an adoptive placement without medical or financial assistance; and 2) receiving or eligible to receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), under the rules in effect on July 16, 1996, title IV-E Foster Care benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

In accordance with the Fostering Connections to Success and Improving Adoptions Act of 2008, beginning in FY 2010, revised Adoption Assistance eligibility requirements that exclude consideration of AFDC and SSI income eligibility requirements are being phased in over a nine-year period, based primarily on the age of the child in the year the adoption assistance agreement is finalized. For FY 2012, the phase-in of the exclusion of consideration of AFDC and SSI applies to otherwise eligible children for whom an adoption assistance agreement is entered into and who have reached the age of 12. The revised eligibility requirements also apply to children based on time in care and siblings of children to which the revised eligibility criteria apply. In FY 2010, federally-recognized Indian tribes, Indian tribal organizations and tribal consortia with approved title IV-E plans also became eligible for the program

Funds also are used for the administrative costs of managing the program and training staff and adoptive parents. The number of children subsidized by this program and the level of federal reimbursement has increased significantly as permanent adoptive homes are found for more children. The average monthly number of children for whom payments were made has increased more than 80 percent, from just over 228,000 in FY 2000 to an estimated 429,700 in FY 2010 and 470,400 projected in FY 2012.

The Adoption Assistance program underwent a program assessment in CY 2005. The assessment cited the program’s success in increasing the permanent placement of foster care children, effective administration at the state and federal levels, and coordination with related programs as strong attributes of the program. As a result of assessment, the program is working with states to ensure that their Adoption Assistance laws and policies comport with federal requirements.” (Administration for Children and Families
Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committees, p. 335-336)

I wonder if families who do not release a special needs child for adoption, who do not abuse him, or abandon her, whose child is never in foster care . . . are they eligible for help?  More research needed.

Update: Another law, proposed. Don't know if it passed the Senate. H.R. 4980 requires states to track and report disruptions to finalized adoptions and guardianships, one of the biggest blind spots in research on the child welfare system. The few sample studies on the subject suggest that up to 30 percent of adoptions fail.

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