Capitol View on Kids: The Latest News on Children and Families from Washington

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources is holding a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 27, on the issue of adoptions from foster care.  The Adoption Incentive Fund, more commonly referred to as the adoption bonus, is due for reauthorization before the start of FY 2014.

The subcommittee will use the hearing to focus on issues surrounding adoptions.

“While tens of thousands of children are adopted from foster care each year, twice as many foster children are still waiting for a permanent home, said subcommittee chairman Dave Reichert (R-Wash.). “Past federal efforts have increased support for adoptions and have helped states reduce the number of children in foster care each year. As we review the Adoption Incentives program…we need to make sure these measures are still working well so we can ensure all children have a permanent home as quickly as possible.”

The Adoption Incentives Fund was first enacted in 1997 as part of The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA, PL-105-89). It provides incentive payments to states that increase the number of adoptions over the previous highest number per year in that state. States that increase the number of adoptions from foster care over the base number are awarded a payment per adoption.  States can receive an incentive for overall increase in adoptions, an increase in the number of special needs adoptions, and an increase in the number of adoptions involving children over the age of nine.

Each reauthorization has reset a state base number of adoptions they must exceed. The fund was last reauthorized in 2008 as part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (PL 110-35); before that, it was reauthorized in 2003. Each reauthorization has reset a state base number of adoptions they must exceed.

In recent years, the state incentives totaled approximately $40 million per year. Not all states receive an incentive each year, but over the history of the fund each state has qualified several times. The total is appropriated each year and is only distributed if enough states earn that much in increased adoption awards. If enough funding is not appropriated, state awards are reduced. As a result of the last reauthorization states can also receive an incentive if their rate of adoptions increase meaning the real numbers may not go up but the rate per available foster child increases.

The Subcommittee is likely to delve into some related issues on adoptions, including post-adoption services.  There is some increased concern that, for some adoptive families, difficulties can arise later in a child’s life that may require those families to seek needed support.  This may include services to address mental and behavioral health issues.

Because adoptions from foster care have increased from 38,944 in 1999 to a high of 57,115 2009 in 2009 (and 50,516 in 2011) some families may now be struggling with issues at adolescence and later in a child’s life.

Another issue that may be raised is the expansion of the adoption incentive fund to a “permanency” incentive that also rewards states for reunifications and placement into kinship care.  The challenge is how to measure such permanence, since some reunifications may fail over time and some kinship placements may be temporary.

Finally there is the continued push to get the Administration for Children and Families to implement the state maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement enacted under the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. As Adoption Assistance is gradually delinked from the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children criteria – meaning HHS will eventually cover  more of the adoption assistance costs for children adopted – the MOE requires states to re-invest that savings into child welfare.

States stand to take in $1.4 billion over the ten year phase-in of the adoption assistance expanded eligibility (the de-link) and, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this savings (or cost to the federal budget) could reach $500 million in 2018.

Also in this week’s edition of Capitol View on Kids:

  • Sequestration looms at week’s end for youth programs, and everything else
  • House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources to take up Temporary Assistance for Needy Families at Thursday hearing
  • A review of last week’s webinar on the Affordable Care Act and foster youth

John Sciamanna, who writes Capitol View on Kids, is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation. Complete copies of the newsletter Capitol View on Kids are available through membership in the National Foster Care Coalition ( ) or the National Child Abuse Coalition ( ).

For more information on either coalition, email:

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