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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2004 Children's Legislative Agenda/2004 Legislative Priorities > Adoption


CWLA 2004 Children's Legislative Agenda


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  • Provide $43 million for the Adoption Incentive Program in FY 2005.
  • Increase funding to $50 million in FY 2005 for the Adoption Opportunities Program.


Congress reauthorized two important adoption programs in 2003--the Adoption Incentive Program (P.L. 108-145) and the Adoption Opportunities Program (Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, P.L. 108-36).

The Adoption Incentive Program

The Adoption Incentive Program was first enacted as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997 to promote permanence for children. In 2003, Congress passed the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-145) to reauthorize the program with modifications.

The Adoption Incentive Program is designed to encourage states to finalize adoptions of children from foster care, with additional incentives for the adoption of foster children with special needs. States receive incentive payments for adoptions that exceed an established baseline.

FY 2003 funding for the program was $43 million. Although all states have received an adoption incentive payment in at least one year out of the past five, only 25 states qualified in 2003. Many states experienced their greatest increase in adoptions in the initial incentive years (1997 - 1999). A state must always exceed its highest year to continue to receive an incentive payment. In 2003, 25 states received slightly less than $15 million in incentive payments.

Congress is expected to approve only $7.5 million for the program for FY 2004. In addition, Congress will carry over $27 million that was not drawn down by states, thus making $34 million available to states as incentive payments in 2004. If all states do qualify for the bonus in 2004, then the $7.5 million (in addition to any funds carried over from FY 2003) may not be adequate to reward states for the number of adoptions from foster care.

The Adoption Promotion Act revises the incentive formula in current law, creating four categories of payment. A state may receive
  • $4,000 for each foster child adopted above the established baseline of foster child adoptions;

  • $6,000 for each foster child adopted whom the state classifies as having special needs, as long as the state also increases its overall adoptions;

  • $8,000 for each older foster child adopted above the baseline of older foster child adoptions, as long as the state also increases its overall adoptions (an older child is defined as a child age 9 or older); and

  • $4,000 for each older foster child adopted above the baseline of older foster child adoptions when the number of older foster child adoptions increases, but the overall number of foster child adoptions does not increase.
The new law also resets the target number of adoptions a state must reach to receive a bonus payment. Because not all states qualified for the bonus in 2003, a new target was established for adoptions, based on the number of adoptions in 2002 rather than the old formula, which created a number based on fiscal years 1995 - 1997. Under the new law, to receive a payment in any of the categories (overall adoptions, special-needs adoptions, or older-child adoptions), a state must exceed the number of adoptions in these categories set in FY 2002. For any subsequent year, the baseline is the highest number of adoptions in 2002 or later. The new law allows Congress to approve $43 million annually for the payments. If states are not able to draw down all the funds, then the funds are returned to the U.S. Treasury and not reallocated for other adoption efforts.

Adoption Opportunities Program

The Adoption Opportunities Program provides discretionary grants for demonstration projects that eliminate barriers to adoption and provide permanent, loving homes for children who would benefit from adoption--particularly children with special needs. Early in 2004, Congress is expected to approve $27.4 million for the program--the same level of funding provided in FY 2003.

Several resources and supports exist under the Adoption Opportunities Program to assist in the adoption of children. For example, the Collaboration to AdoptUsKids recruits homes for children waiting to be adopted through its National Recruitment Campaign and has developed a network of adoptive parent groups. AdoptUsKids also maintains a national Internet photolisting of waiting children. In 2000, 52,000 families received information on how to proceed with adoption. The exchange currently lists 5,500 children waiting to be adopted.

The Adoption Opportunities Program has also funded the National Resource Center on Special Needs Adoption, which provides technical assistance and training on current issues in special-needs adoption--such as compliance with federal laws and regulations, permanency planning, and cultural competence--to state, tribal, and other child welfare organizations. Nearly 65,000 people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have received special-needs adoption training through the center.

Adoption Opportunities funds also support the National Adoption Assistance Training Resource and Information Network. The network's services include a hotline that provides free information on adoption subsidies to parents interested in adopting children with special needs, and a booklet on adoption assistance programs available in each state.

Adoption Opportunities funding has also helped establish the National Adoption Information Clearing-house (NAIC), a comprehensive information center on adoption. In 1999, NAIC responded to 10,603 requests for information on adoption and disseminated more than 127,000 materials to the public.

Key Facts 1

  • Of the 534,000 children in foster care on September 30, 2002, approximately 126,000 were free for adoption.

  • Of the children waiting to be adopted from foster care as of September 2001, 45% were black non-Hispanic, 34% were white non-Hispanic, and 12% were Hispanic.

  • In 2000, the median age of children waiting to be adopted was 8.1 years. Three percent of the children waiting to be adopted were younger than 1 year, 33% were ages 1 - 5, 34% were 6 - 10, 26% were 11 - 15, and 4% were 16 - 18.

  • The number of children adopted from foster care has increased in recent years: 28,000 in 1996, 31,000 in 1997, 37,000 in 1998, 46,000 in 1999, 51,000 in 2000, and 50,000 in 2001.

  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2000, 2% were younger than age 1, 45% were ages 1 - 5, 35% were 6 - 10, 16% were 11 - 15, and 2% were 16 - 18.

  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2001, 59% were adopted by their foster parents, 17% were adopted by a nonrelative, and 24% were adopted by a relative.

  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2000, 49% waited more than one year from the time they became legally free for adoption until they were adopted.


  1. U.S. Children's Bureau. (2003, March). The AFCARS report #8: Preliminary estimates published March 2003. Retrieved online, January 6, 2004, from Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

CWLA Contact

John Sciamanna

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