Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 831) supporting the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by promoting national awareness of adoption and the children in foster care awaiting families, celebrating children and families involved in adoption, recognizing current programs and efforts designed to promote adoption, and encouraging people in the United States to seek improved safety, permanency, and well-being for all children.
The Clerk read the title of the resolution.
The text of the resolution is as follows:
H. Res. 831
Whereas there are nearly 500,000 children in the foster care system in the United States, approximately 130,000 of whom are waiting for families to adopt them;
Whereas nearly 54 percent of the children in foster care are age 10 or younger;
Whereas the average length of time a child spends in foster care is more than 2 years;
Whereas, for many foster children, the wait for a permanent, adoptive, ``forever'' family in which they are loved, nurtured, comforted, and protected seems endless;
Whereas the number of youth who ``age out'' of the foster care system by reaching adulthood without being placed in a permanent home has increased by more than 60 percent since 1998, as nearly 28,000 foster youth ``aged out'' of foster care during 2007;
Whereas every day loving and nurturing families are strengthened and expanded when committed and dedicated individuals make an important difference in the life of a child through adoption;
Whereas, while 3 in 10 people in the United States have considered adoption, a majority of them have misconceptions about the process of adopting children from foster care and the children who are eligible for adoption;
Whereas 71 percent of those who have considered adoption consider adopting children from foster care above other forms of adoption;
Whereas 45 percent of people in the United States believe that children enter the foster care system because of juvenile delinquency, when in reality the vast majority of children in the foster care system were victims of neglect, abandonment, or abuse;
Whereas 46 percent of people in the United States believe that foster care adoption is expensive, when in reality there is no substantial cost for adopting from foster care, and financial support in the form of an adoption assistance subsidy is available to adoptive families of eligible children adopted from foster care and continues after the adoption is finalized until the child is 18, so that income will not be a barrier to becoming a parent to a foster child who needs to belong to a family;
Whereas significant tax credits are available to families who adopt children with special needs;
Whereas the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, in a partnership with the Ad Council, supports a national recruitment campaign for adoptive parents;
Whereas the Collaboration to AdoptUsKids features a photolisting Website for waiting foster children and prospective adoptive families at www.adoptuskids.org, and in Spanish at www.adopte1.org;
Whereas National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to find permanent, loving families for children in the foster care system;
Whereas, since the first National Adoption Day in 2000, 25,000 children have joined forever families during National Adoption Day;
Whereas in 2008, adoptions were finalized for over 4,600 children through more than 325 National Adoption Day events in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico;
Whereas National Adoption Month celebrates the gift of adoption, recognizing the adoptive and foster families who share their hearts and homes with children in need, and raises awareness of the need for families for the many waiting children, particularly older children and teens, children of color, members of sibling groups, and children with physical and emotional challenges; and
Whereas November 2009 is National Adoption Month, and November 21, 2009, is National Adoption Day, and activities and information about both are available at www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/nam/activities.cfm: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) supports the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month;
(2) recognizes that every child in foster care deserves a permanent and loving family;
(3) recognizes the significant commitment of taxpayers to support adoption, including the $1,900,000,000 provided to support adoption through the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance program, as well as the assistance provided through the Title IV-E Foster Care program to 130,000 children waiting for adoptive families, among other important programs; and
(4) encourages the citizens of the United States to consider adoption of children in foster care who are waiting for a permanent, loving family.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Davis) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite) each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 831, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month.
I am pleased to have worked with Congresswoman Brown-Waite, Congressman Tiberi, and Congressman McDermott on this legislation.
On any given day, there are over a half million children in our Nation's foster care system, of which nearly 130,000 are waiting for a permanent home through adoption. While 51,000 children found a family to call their own last year through adoption, far too many children in the foster care system remain waiting for some level of permanency.
Adoption provides children who are unable to return to their biological homes with the opportunity to be raised in a safe and loving home, providing them a level of stability that generally cannot be found in foster care.
Adoption is an important option for many children in the foster care system. It allows children to be raised as a member of a new family, a family that will provide the love, security and support that every child deserves.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act supported adoption as an important pathway to permanency. This historic law also recognized the need to support multiple avenues to permanency, given that adoption may not be the best option for all children and families.
I have worked with Representative Jim McDermott and my colleague from Illinois, former Representative Jerry Weller, to include language in the fostering connections law to provide additional opportunities to children in foster care via kinship guardianship. Kinship guardianship gives a child a permanent home with their grandparent or other relative, providing the same level of love, security and support that an adoption home provides but without the termination of parental rights.
An evaluation of Illinois' subsidized guardianship waiver found that children in kinship guardianship fair as well as those in other permanency settings on measures of well-being, including school performance, engagement in risky behaviors, and access to community resources.
A recent GAO report identified kinship guardianship as a key Federal policy to decrease the overrepresentation of African American children in our Nation's child welfare system. African American children enter foster care at higher rates and remain in foster care for longer periods of time when compared to children from other racial or ethnic groups.
Indeed, African American children make up nearly one-third of the children waiting for adoption in this country. There are a variety of reasons why these children remain in the system longer, with one reason being that adoption is not equally availed by families from different races and ethnicities, especially among African American and Native American communities. Research shows that allowing a child to achieve permanency with a relative enhances their development and long-term well-being by maintaining their cultural identity and sense of family belonging, which, understandably, is particularly important for African American and Native American children.
I personally know the value of kinship guardianship because Illinois has been a leader in developing and demonstrating the effectiveness of pioneering child welfare reforms such as kinship guardianship and extension of foster care to age 21, also included in the fostering connections legislation.
In addition to seeing the positive effects of kinship caregiving Statewide, I have seen the importance of kinship guardianship in Chicago. My congressional district has the highest percentage of children living with kinship caregivers in the Nation, followed by the First Congressional District of Illinois with the second highest percentage, and the Second District with the 10th highest percentage in the Nation.
I am proud that the fostering connections law worked to increase adoption and other avenues to permanency such as kinship guardianship to help children find the permanent, safe homes they deserve.
Despite the reforms that we have achieved in this legislation, more work needs to be done to improve the experiences of all children and all families in the system and to end racial disparities that continue to persist.
This spring, I joined with Representative Jim McDermott and Todd Platts to introduce legislation that would provide Federal funding to support evidence-based early childhood home visitation programs. These programs provide important home-based instruction and services to pregnant mothers and families with preschool-age children that help to improve the health and educational outcomes of children and their parents.
A growing body of evidence has found that early childhood home visitation programs serve as an effective child abuse prevention strategy, reducing the incidence of child abuse and neglect by nearly 40 percent. Home visiting also produces significant health benefits to children and their families, such as improved child health, child development, parenting skills, and school readiness.
I am pleased that it was included as part of the health care reform proposal that was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee. A similar proposal was included in the health proposal that was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month.
I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to improve our Nation's foster care system through adoption, guardianship, home visitation programs, and other important initiatives.
I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting the ideals and goals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by voting in favor of H. Res. 831.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. GINNY BROWN-WAITE of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of House Resolution 831, recognizing the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and Month.
As you know, November 21 will mark this year's annual National Adoption Day celebration. All across the country communities will gather together to celebrate the adoptions that have been finalized this year and those that we hope to finalize in the following year.
It is this spirit of community and family that makes National Adoption Day so effective and so very important in the lives of the Nation's nearly 500,000 foster children. Since the tradition began in the year 2000, over 25,000 children have joined families on this very important day.
As someone who gave birth to two children--and I also adopted an older, hard-to-place child--I know what having a family means to so many children, and in particular to older children. My oldest daughter, following in her mom's footsteps, she and her husband 1 year ago adopted a baby at birth. So whether it's at birth or when the child is older, it is a wonderful, wonderful experience for any family. I am happy to report that little Joey just celebrated his first birthday.
Although we don't often consider it, each year thousands of children also age out of the foster care system. Each year they grow older, it becomes harder and harder to place them with forever families. In so many cases, adoption is the key to breaking the cycle of abuse for children who would otherwise languish in dangerous homes.
Perhaps it goes without saying how important it is for children to grow up in loving and supportive families; yet, with thousands and thousands of children still being denied this most fundamental opportunity, Congress must do all that it can to support their efforts to find a home for these children.
As such, the Federal Government has rightly stepped in to relieve the financial burden on adoptive families and, in doing so, has made adoption more affordable to people of all income levels. But much still remains to be done. The resolution that we are considering today is an important affirmation and reaffirmation of our commitment to improving the lives of foster children everywhere.
I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support and attention to this matter. If you don't think that taking a child into your home and loving that child makes a real difference, let me tell you something that my adopted daughter just told me this week. Now, remember, she was in a very, very poor situation as she was growing up. She told me that she met a man who epitomizes what her dad represented. Her dad was my deceased husband, Harvey Waite. So she learned what a true family man really was through our adoption.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge adoption of this resolution, and I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. I want to thank Representative Brown-Waite for her introduction of this legislation and also for her remarks.
It's my pleasure now to yield such time as he might consume to the chairman of the Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee, the gentleman from Washington, Representative Jim McDermott, one of the real champions of child welfare in this country and one who knows exactly what is needed to make sure that children have safe and comfortable environments in which to live.
(Mr. McDERMOTT asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging my colleagues, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Davis) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite) for bringing this resolution to the floor.
This is an issue that deserves our unanimous support, and I'm sure it will have it. H. Res. 831 really expresses the ideals and the goals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month. Every child deserves to be raised in a home that is safe, loving and is permanent. Unfortunately, this basic principle is not a reality for the 129,000 children who are currently in our Nation's foster care system waiting for a permanent home to call their own.
Last year, the Congress passed bipartisan, bicameral legislation that dramatically reformed our Nation's foster care and adoption program. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act was designed to improve the outcomes of children's lives in the foster care system as well as increase the number of children who find permanency through placement with a grandparent or other relative or through adoption. The new law helps States provide greater financial assistance to relative caregivers who choose to become the legal guardian of a foster child and also promotes the adoption of children with special needs and improves the Adoption Incentive Program.
While my colleagues and I were able to accomplish a great deal last year in improving foster care and adoption programs, our work is far from over. We must ensure that families are given the postadoption support they need when they welcome an adopted child into their home. Any of us who have raised a child know that it's difficult to do, but it is an immensely rewarding endeavor, and when the Federal Government has an ability to encourage these connections, we ought to do so.
There are a wealth of families interested in adopting a child out of foster care. A study last year showed that there are 600,000 women in the United States seeking to adopt. The majority of these women said they would consider adopting older youth, siblings, or children with special needs. We can and must do a better job of connecting these would-be parents to kids growing up in foster care.
It's my hope that this bill and the resolution connected to it will lead to an overall increase in the awareness of National Adoption Day and will help us close the gap so that it is possible to imagine a Nation where every child, indeed, lives in a safe and secure home.
We must also do a better job of keeping kids out of the foster care system to begin with. Today, we provide some or more financial assistance to States to remove children from homes and place them in care than we do in providing support to children in at-risk homes where they are living in their homes.
At this time last week, I delivered remarks in front of a group of current and former foster youth, and the topic of discussion was: How can we better address the stresses of crises in the home that bring families to the door of the system in the first place? The point I heard over and over again from these young adults was, My parents weren't bad people. They just needed some extra help and guidance to keep our family together.
Keeping children safely with their biological parents is almost always in the child's best interest. In an effort to move us in that direction, I have introduced bipartisan legislation with Representative Danny Davis and Todd Platts to provide States with mandatory grant funding to support an evidence-based voluntary home visitation program.
The President took Representative Davis' idea and put it in his budget. We put it in H.R. 3200, which is the health care bill that is now about to be considered in this body.
The home visitation program provides services to pregnant women and families with preschool-aged children that are designed to enhance the child's health, well-being, and development. I am pleased that the proposal was introduced and that it made its way into the health care bill. We expect it will pass out of here in a few days.
I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting H. Res. 831 and to recommit ourselves to working on legislation that improves the lives of all children and families and improves our child welfare system. The 129,000 children who are awaiting a permanent family deserve nothing less from this Congress.
Ms. GINNY BROWN-WAITE of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I have no additional Members wishing to speak on this. I will just certainly agree with my colleagues that this is a very worthwhile resolution and one that I hope Americans who have room in their hearts and their homes to adopt someone will take very, very seriously. Adoption is a long process and one that should be taken very seriously, but it's one that has many, many rewards.
I would encourage my colleagues to vote in favor of this resolution.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H. Res. 831.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Illinois?
There was no objection.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. To close, Mr. Speaker, let me just commend Representative Brown-Waite, Chairman McDermott, Mr. Tiberi, and all those who have worked on bringing this legislation to the floor. Our children are, indeed, the future, and it's our responsibility to provide every opportunity that we possibly can for them. I think this legislation and this resolution all combine to help make America a better place for children, so I would ask that all Members support it.
* [Begin Insert]
Mr. CAMP. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of H. Res. 831, a resolution that recognizes the successes of federal efforts to encourage adoption, and honors National Adoption Day and Month.
As an avid adoption supporter, I believe that Congress must continue to promote the adoption of children into safe and loving homes. Through our work in 1997 as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and more recently through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Congress has made significant advances in providing more options for children in need.
Yet, far too many children, nearly 130,000, are waiting in foster care programs throughout our country for families to adopt them. These children should be given every opportunity to lead successful lives, and one way to make that happen is to increase the adoption of these children into safe, permanent, loving homes.
That is why National Adoption Day and Month are so important. This year, National Adoption Day will take place on November 21, and is designed for communities around the country to highlight adoptions. Last year there were events in all 50 states during which the adoptions of 4,000 children were finalized.
This year is especially important, as the National Adoption Day is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. This is a significant achievement from its humble beginnings, when Los Angeles County Judge Michael Nash started ``Adoption Saturdays'' to help facilitate the adoption of foster children.
I have been honored to participate in National Adoption Day over the past several years. To be part of such a special occasion reinforces the need for further efforts to move kids into adoptive homes.
I would also like to highlight the efforts of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute to promote adoption through its annual Angels in Adoption Awards Ceremony, held in September. This event also highlights those that have opened their hearts and their homes.
This year, I was honored to nominate Sarah and Steve Rosinski, from Traverse City, Michigan, as Angels in Adoption. Steve and Sarah became foster parents when a young boy name Logan was placed in their home. Coming from a difficult family, Logan needed special attention and care. The Rosinskis gave him the love and support he needed to thrive and made him a permanent addition to their family by adopting him in 2007.
They now are fostering a baby girl, also coming to them with early challenges--again, putting the child's best interests first, they are working on a reunification plan with her family. The Rosinksis have never asked for recognition for what they have done, they have simply done what is right. This is what National Adoption Day is all about.
I first got involved by helping families with their adoption proceedings as their attorney. I strongly believe that we have the ability and the opportunity to help encourage adoption and help those in the foster care system. That is why it is so important to recognize the families who make extraordinary efforts to welcome children into their family and highlight the importance of National Adoption Day and Month.
Mr. LINDER. Mr. Speaker, I join my colleagues today in support of this resolution supporting National Adoption Day and Month. I join in recognizing all of the children in foster care awaiting loving adoptive families as well as the many caring adults who have opened their hearts and homes to take in foster or adopted children.
During 2007 an estimated 783,000 children were served by the foster care system, with 494,000 children in care at the end of the year, including 12,236 in my home State of Georgia. In 2006 across the U.S., 50,941 adoptions were completed with public child welfare agency involvement. Significantly, the rate of adoption from foster care has increased from 5.5 percent in 1995 to 10 percent in 2006. That improvement has been driven by specific policies--including the landmark Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997--designed to increase the rate of adoption.
While that is welcome progress, there is more work to be done. Congress took additional steps last year with the passage of bipartisan legislation designed to promote more adoption, especially of children in foster care. As that law, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, is implemented, I look forward to reviewing the continued progress we will hopefully be making in improving the lives of children. When it comes to promoting more adoption instead of more foster care, we certainly have a solid track record to build on, and cause for optimism.
Beyond the legislation now in place, I call on Congress and the American people to continue working to improve educational opportunities for foster youth, as for all youth. Foster youth face particularly high hurdles in graduating from high school on time, or even at all. The reasons are many, including the multiple home placements that often cause young people in foster care to bounce not just from home to home but also from school to school. Overcoming these challenges is a key goal of last year's legislation, and one that will take the concerted efforts of many in the child welfare and education communities, in addition of course to the dedication of young people and their foster and adoptive parents. Giving each young person a solid chance of success in life starts with ensuring each and every student finishes at least high school and has the basic skills to find and keep a stable, well-paying job.
I urge all Members to support this resolution, and work with the many dedicated faith-based and other groups in their districts who promote adoption not only in November, but in every month of the year. We should all work toward the day when every child will be in a safe and loving permanent home, either with their own parents or, if they cannot adequately care for them, with loving adoptive parents.
Along the way, it is right to recognize both those who have already opened their hearts and homes to these special young people, as well as those who will do so in the future. They deserve our thanks and admiration for the tremendous commitment of love and devotion they show every day.
Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of House Resolution 831 to support the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month. This resolution seeks to promote awareness of adoption and the foster care system and remind all of us of the importance that adoption plays in the lives of countless Americans across the country.
Today there are nearly half a million children in foster care in the United States with roughly 130,000 waiting for families to adopt them. The awareness and encouragement that National Adoption Day and Month brings have helped numerous children find loving families. It is expected that 4,500 foster care children will be adopted this year on National Adoption Day which takes place on November 21.
Mr. Speaker, a loving family can have a lifelong impact on a child, and it is important that we acknowledge the sacrifices and celebrate the importance that every party in the adoption process has. I encourage my colleagues to join me today in supporting House Resolution 831 so that we can continue to recognize the on-going efforts of America's adoptive families and their adopted sons and daughters.
* [End Insert]
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Davis) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 831.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the resolution was agreed to.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.