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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2005 Children's Legislative Agenda > Adoption


CWLA 2005 Children's Legislative Agenda



  • Preserve and improve the federal guarantee of Title IV-E Adoption Assistance as an entitlement for children who have been abused and neglected.

  • Change the current income eligibility criteria for the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance program so more adoptive families can receive the support needed to adopt children from foster care.

  • Ensure federal support for post-adoption services to better support and strengthen adoptive families.

  • Provide $43 million for the Adoption Incentive Program in FY 2006.

  • Increase funding to $50 million in FY 2006 for the Adoption Opportunities Program.


Federal policy recognizes the importance of adopting children from foster care and supports such adoptions in several ways.
Title IV-E Adoption Assistance
The Title IV-E Adoption Assistance program is the primary federal support for adopting children from foster care, providing subsidies to eligible families who adopt children with special needs (as defined by the state) from the foster care system. In FY 2005, the federal government will provide a projected $1.7 billion for adoption assistance payments, services, and administrative costs associated with making those payments. In 2002, adoption assistance payments served an average 285,600 children a month. 1
A child's eligibility for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance is linked to outdated 1996 AFDC income standards. This income eligibility criteria needs to be changed to ensure that more children in foster care can become part of an adoptive family. This improvement must be part of any comprehensive child welfare financing reform Congress considers in 2005.

Adoption Incentive Program
The Adoption Incentive Program was first enacted as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) to promote permanence for children. In 2003, Congress passed the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-145) to reauthorize this program with modifications.

The Adoption Incentive Program is designed to encourage states to finalize adoptions of children from foster care, with additional incentives for adopting foster children with special needs. States receive incentive payments for adoptions that exceed an established baseline. FY 2005 funding for the program is $31 million.

All states have received an adoption incentive payment in at least one year out of the past five; in 2004, 31 states and Puerto Rico qualified for $17.8 million. Many states experienced their greatest increase in adoptions in 1997-1999, the initial years incentives were provided. A state must always exceed its highest year to continue to receive an incentive payment.

In 2003 the incentive formula was revised to provide payments in four categories. A state may receive a maximum of $8,000 per child:
  • $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 (age 9 or older) adopted above the baseline of older foster child adoptions, as long as the state also increases its overall adoptions; 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 reset the target number of adoptions a state must reach to receive a bonus payment. Under the new formula, 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, the funds are returned to the federal government 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. Congress approved $27.1 million for the program in FY 2005.

The Adoption Opportunities Program provides several resources and supports to assist in the adoption of children:
  • The Collaboration to AdoptUsKids recruits homes for children waiting to be adopted through its National Recruitment Campaign. AdoptUsKids also maintains a national Internet photolisting of waiting children, and a network of adoptive parent groups.

  • The National Resource Center on Special Needs Adoption 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.

  • Adoption Opportunities Program funding helped establish the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, a comprehensive information center on adoption.

  • Other programs and efforts that receive support through the Adoption Opportunities Program funding stream include the National Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment Campaign; the You Gotta Believe program, which seeks permanent placements for older children; the Consortium for Children; and the National Partnership Summits for Adoption and Foster Care Professionals.
Interstate Barriers to Adoption
In 2004, the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 4504) introduced by Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX) that attempted to expedite the process by which children are placed in foster care or adoptive homes across state lines.

Due to differing state requirements and standards (including the contents of a home study and the training of parents), adoptions across state lines generally take longer than adoptions within a state. For a child to be placed with an adoptive or foster family in another state, the state requesting that adoptive placement must request that the family's state of residence conduct a home study of the prospective adoptive family. Sometimes, this takes a very long time and delays the adoption. These interstate procedures are governed by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). States are now in the process of updating the ICPC, which was enacted more than 40 years ago.

The DeLay bill would have created an incentive fund to states that could meet certain timelines in responding to one state's request to another state for a home study. The legislation also set maximum timelines states would have to meet when receiving request for such studies. Although the bill passed the House, no action was taken in the Senate.

Key Facts

Current federal adoption supports are important and should continue; more needs to be done, however. Despite strides to promote adoptions, the need continues:
  • Of the 532,454 children in foster care in 2002, approximately 129,262 were free for adoption. 2
  • Of the children waiting to be adopted from foster care as of September 2001, 45% were black non-Hispanic, 34% were white non-Hispanic, 12% were Hispanic, and 4% were of undetermined ethnicity. 3
  • In 2001, the median age of children waiting to be adopted was 8.3 years. Three percent of the children waiting to be adopted were younger than 1 year, 32% were 1-5, 32% were 6-10, 28% were 11-15, and 2% were 16-18. 4
  • 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, 50,000 in 2001 and 52,000 in 2002. 5
  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2001, 59% were younger than age 1, 17% were 1-5, 34% were 6-10, 16% were 11-15, and 2% were 16-18. 6
  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2001, 59% were adopted by their foster parents, 17% were adopted by a nonrelative, and 23% were adopted by a relative. 7
  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2001, 51% waited more than one year from the time they became legally free for adoption until they were adopted. 8


  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means. (2004). Title IV Adoption Assistance Program. In 2004 Green Book. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  2. U.S. Children's Bureau. (2004). FY 1998, 1999, FY 2000, FY 2001 and FY 2002 Foster Care: Children Waiting for Adoption. State by State Adoption and Foster Care Statistics. Retrieved online, January 4, 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  3. U.S. Children's Bureau. (2003). AFCARS Report #8: Preliminary Estimates published March 2003. Retrieved online, January 4, 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  4. Ibid.
  5. U.S. Children's Bureau. (2004). Adoptions of Children with Public Child Welfare Agency Involvement By State FY 1995-FY 2002--revised October 2004. State by State Adoption and Foster Care Statistics. Retrieved online, January 4, 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  6. AFCARS Report #8.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

CWLA Contact

John Sciamanna

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