Both houses of Congress are moving on legislation that would overhaul the federal Adoption Incentives Grant Program.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, submitted the Promoting the Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act late last week. The bill has the support of fellow committee Republican David Reichert (Wash.) and Democrats Sandy Levin (Mich.) and Lloyd Doggett (Texas).
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) is floating the Strengthening and Finding Families for Children Act. He is circulating a draft and seeking input from stakeholders before dropping it in the hopper.
Both pieces of legislation, in their current states, propose to reauthorize the $43 million-per-year Adoption Incentives Grant Program until 2016 and expand its scope to include guardianship arrangements.
States receive adoption incentive grants based on the difference between the number of adoptions it actually finalizes and a “base rate.” The base rate quantifies how many adoptions would have been finalized had the state made no improvement based on figures from recent years.
Right now, states receive awards for youths in three categories: $4,000 multiples for younger children and special needs children, plus $8,000 for adoption of children above the age of nine.
The Senate bill would raise the special awards to $4,500, and add an additional $4,000 award for “countable legal guardianships” arranged in the state.
Camp’s House bill would lower the basic incentive grant to $2,000, eliminate the special-needs category, and maintain the older youth award at $8,000. Camp would also insert a $4,000 award for “pre-adolescent” adoptions for youths between nine and 14, and add a $1,000 for guardianship arrangements.
Baucus would require one quarter of adoption incentive funding must be used for family reunification services, the draft bill states, and the remaining 75 percent can supplement any services allowed under the main federal child welfare streams, Title IV-B and Title IV-E. The House bill simply mandates that all the incentive grant funds supplement IV-B and IV-E services.
Both bills would extend the Family Connections grants through 2016 at $15 million per year, and place a flow restriction on some funds from another federal stream, the Adoption Assistance Payments program.
The 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act removed eligibility standards that limited the number of children for which states could receive federal reimbursement through Adoption Assistance Payments.
The Senate bill would require states to calculate the amount they are saving through greater federal reimbursement, and spend at least 40 percent of that savings on post-adoption services. The House version mandates at least 20 percent spending on those services.
Rep. Reichert, who chairs the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, held a hearing in February on ways to increase adoptions from foster care. Among the recommendations voiced by witnesses:
- Increased spending on post-adoption services
- Specialized case management for older foster youth
- Outreach to the faith-based community
- Elimination of the Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA), a federally permitted foster care exception to pursuing adoption, guardianship or reunification.
A separate piece of Senate legislation, proposed last week by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would eliminate APPLA for most teens.
Anyone who wishes to provide input on the Baucus Senate bill can E-mail: [email protected].