Ways and Means Subcommittee Hearing on Increasing Adoptions from Foster Care

Yesterday Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA) held a hearing on increasing adoptions from foster care through the Adoption Incentives program and other federal initiatives. Upon opening the hearing, Chairman Reichert shared his personal and professional commitment to the adoption and foster care cause. He described adoption as a truly bipartisan issue that he hopes to be able to work with Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) to improve upon in hopes of providing more permanent homes for children and youth in foster care.

Doggett shared the Chairman’s commitment to increasing adoptions but warned that the impending sequester would have a negative impact on the adoption incentives fund if Congress fails to act. He also acknowledged that the Family Connections Grants are set to expire this year and although a relatively small program, it provides resources to improve the lives of children and families in need.

The subcommittee heard testimony from four witnesses, all representing adoption organizations. Witnesses spoke to the importance of raising awareness about the number of children waiting to be adopted from foster care. They shared examples of outreach that their respective organizations utilize to familiarize the public with children in care who want to be adopted in addition to providing opportunities for children in foster care to meet and interact with potential families. The witnesses were very vocal about the importance of not giving up on finding permanent connections for all children in the foster care system.

A significant portion of the hearing focused on the need for flexibility and continued funding for post adoption services. Nicole Dobbins, Executive Director for Voice for Adoption, spoke to the recently reauthorized Adoption Tax Credit and the benefit that it serves to families who adopt from the foster care system. She also pointed out that the recent reauthorization did not include refundability, which is critical for families adopting from foster care who in the past did not benefit from the credit due to their low tax liability. Other issues at the forefront of the hearing included the fact that there is currently no federal mandate that requires agencies and staff to continue to pursue for adoptive families (especially for older youth), that there are states that are increasing adoptions from year to year but are still not eligible for federal adoption incentives, and the need to examine federal adoption funding to determine how states are using savings from the adoption assistance de-link and where they are reinvesting those funds (as currently required by law).

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