Today, Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI), Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Human Resources Subcommittee Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) introduced the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act.
The Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act:
- reauthorizes the program for three years (i.e. through FY 2016);
- revises awards over that three-year period to focus on increasing adoption rates - - - instead of the raw number of adoptions (ensuring States receive awards even as foster care caseloads continue to decline);
- focuses more resources on increasing adoptions of older children;
- creates a new award category for increases in the rate of children leaving foster care for legal guardianship; and
- allows States to spend incentive funds over three years instead of two.
Speaking about the introduction of the bill, Chairman Camp said: "Children in foster care deserve a place to call home, not just for a few months or years but for good. Having focused on adoption since arriving in Congress--and having helped create the Adoption Incentives program--I know by providing states with incentives for adoptions we can encourage them to do more to help these children. We have already seen great progress in increasing adoptions since this program was created in 1997, and it is our hope to continue this progress with this bill. I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill in the House, and I hope the Senate will also act soon so we can continue to move even more foster children into permanent homes."
Ranking Member Levin said: "Every child deserves a permanent home that provides a safe, enriching and loving environment, and this legislation rewards State foster care programs that make progress toward that important goal. I look forward to action on this bipartisan effort to promote adoption and guardianship for the over 100,000 children now in foster care who are awaiting a permanent family."
Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Reichert said: "Today, 100,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted. As a grandfather and uncle to four adopted children, I know firsthand the joy that a loving, stable home brings to the life of a child but even more so the many blessings that the child brings to their adoptive family. That's why my first hearing as Chairman of the Human Resources Subcommittee focused on how to help more of these children find permanent homes. This bill incorporates ideas we heard in that hearing as well as those submitted by the public, such as emphasizing adoption for older children who today have the least chance of finding a permanent home. This bipartisan bill will continue to strengthen this important program, ensuring more children grow up with a safe, loving, and permanent family."
Human Resources Subcommittee Ranking Member Doggett said:"This bipartisan legislation makes small, but important steps in assisting abused and neglected children to find a permanent home, and it preserves the Family Connections initiative to connect foster children to other family members. It includes a provision I authored to help ensure these children receive continued assistance even if their legal guardian dies."
This legislation would require States to improve their reporting of State savings in the wake of changes made in 2008 that increased Federal funding of adoption assistance, and it ensures a portion of these savings is invested in services to support families after adoptions have been finalized. The bill also clarifies the treatment of successor guardians under the new Guardianship Assistance Program, guaranteeing children can continue to be cared for by another legal guardian if a relative guardian passes away or is incapacitated.
This bill would also extend for three years the Family Connection Grants program that is focused on helping children in foster care reconnect with family members. To offset the cost of this extension, the bill requires States to offset Federal income tax refunds to recover Unemployment Insurance overpayments that are the fault of the claimant. The combination of these provisions means that the legislation is expected to reduce the deficit over 10 years by $24 million.
On August 7, the Ways and Means Committee released draft legislation to extend and improve the Adoption Incentives program based on testimony received at a Human Resources Subcommittee hearing earlier this year. Public comments on that draft legislation informed several changes made to the bipartisan legislation introduced today.