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November 01, 2013

House passes adoption incentives legislation

The House passed legislation Oct. 22 to reauthorize and expand the Adoption Incentives Program that incorporates recommendations from the ABA to continue the Family Connection Grants program supporting efforts to reconnect children in foster care with their families.

H.R. 3205, sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.), cleared the House by a unanimous vote of 402 yeas.

The bill, known as the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act, would reauthorize the Adoption Incentives Program for three years and revise the awards to focus on increasing adoption rates as opposed to the raw number of adoptions. The program, created as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 and most recently reauthorized in 2008, provides financial incentives to states for increasing adoption from foster care.

In addition to Family Connection Grants, other provisions focus more resources on increasing adoptions of older children and create a new award category for increasing the rate of children leaving foster care for legal guardianship. 

In comments submitted Aug. 28 to Camp and Levin regarding a draft of the legislation, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman commended the Ways and Means Committee for its commitment to encouraging state and local child welfare agencies to achieve permanency for children and youth in foster care.

He applauded the provisions in the draft to expand and improve the Adoption Incentives Program and to provide incentive payments to states for increasing the rate of children reaching permanency through legal guardianship.

He reiterated the ABA’s views in an Oct. 7 letter to Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).

In both of his letters, Susman highlighted the ABA’s longstanding commitment to improving the lives of the nation’s most vulnerable children and families and emphasized that the  House of Delegates has approved numerous policies since 1988 relating to the child welfare system. 

He encouraged the senators also to include provisions offering incentives to secure safe reunification, which he said would further motivate states to help families achieve that goal and ensure that reunification is recognized as a priority permanency goal. 

“Creating three independent incentive programs to encourage the permanency goals of reunification, adoption, and guardianship will help encourage and enable state and county child welfare agencies to actively work toward and invest in each valuable and important option for children and families,” Susman wrote.

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