The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act was passed by the U.S. Senate on Sept. 23 after being approved by the House less than a week earlier, and was awaiting the president’s signature at the end of the month.
Tom Atwood, CEO of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) called the bipartisan bill “the most significant legislation relating to adoption and foster care since the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.”
Among other things, the bill:
• Reauthorizes through 2013 the Adoption Incentives Program, which financially rewards states that show annual increases in adoptions of children from foster care systems. It establishes 2007 as the “base year” against which states will measure adoption outcomes and increases award amounts, particularly for more adoptions of special needs and older youth.
• Ensures that by 2018, all special needs youth adopted from foster care will be eligible for federal adoption assistance, regardless of family income.
• Mandates that states inform prospective adoptive parents of their eligibility status for the adoption tax credit.
• Requires states to make a reasonable effort to have siblings adopted into the same home.
• Establishes guardianship assistance payments for relatives.
• Allows states to extend foster care maintenance and adoption and relative guardianship assistance payments to youth as old as 20.
• Unties eligibility for federal adoption assistance from the defunct Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which set restrictive requirements that were said to discourage the adoption of foster youth.
“The kinship benefits and breaking the link to the old AFDC program are major steps forward, and necessary as we strive to improve the child welfare system,” Child Welfare League of America CEO Christine James-Brown said in a statement after the House approval.
Contact: National Council for Adoption (703) 299-6633, http://www.adoptioncouncil.org.
– Jen Russell