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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2007 Children's Legislative Agenda > Adoption


CWLA 2007 Children's Legislative Agenda


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

  • Reform the outdated federal eligibility for foster care and adoption assistance which covers children only if they are removed from families that would have been eligible for cash assistance/AFDC as it existed on July 16, 1996.

  • Provide $43 million for the Adoption Incentive Program in FY 2008, and reinvest unused incentive funds into adoption support activities.

  • Increase funding to $50 million in FY 2008 for the Adoption Opportunities Program.

  • Create a funding source and strengthen federal support for post-adoption services that work to support and strengthen adoptive families in the long term.


Adoption has long been a vital service for children who need families, bringing children whose birth parents cannot or will not be able to provide for them together with nurturing adults who seek to build or add to their families. Although only 2 to 3% of the U.S. population is adopted, adoption touches the lives of many people. In 1938, CWLA published the first professional standards to guide adoption agencies. Over the past decades, families choosing to adopt have become increasingly diverse. A growing number of foster families, families of color, older individuals and families with children, two-parent working families, single parents (both male and female), gay and lesbian couples, families with modest incomes, individuals with physical disabilities, and families of all education levels, religious persuasions, and from all parts of the country now adopt. These individuals and families have one important thing in common: They are willing and able to make a lifelong commitment to protect and nurture a child not born to them by providing a safe and loving family for that child.
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, as it provides subsidies to eligible families who adopt children with special needs (as defined by the state) from the foster care system. In FY 2007, the federal government will provide a projected $2 billion for adoption assistance payments, services, and administrative costs associated with making those payments. In 2002, adoption assistance payments served an average of 285,600 children a month. 1

A child's eligibility for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance is currently linked to the outdated 1996 Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) income standards. Eliminating this outdated eligibility criterion will allow many more children in foster care to become part of an adoptive family. This improvement must be part of any comprehensive child welfare financing reform Congress considers in 2007.

The Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, passed in February 2006, somewhat simplifies the eligibility for Title IV-E federal adoption assistance. The past policy required that the AFDC eligibility criteria had to be met at two points: first, when the child was removed from his home and placed in foster care, and second, when adoption proceedings were initiated. The new law eliminates the second prong of the AFDC test.

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 greater 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 finalizing adoptions of children in foster care with special needs. States receive incentive payments for adoptions that exceed an established baseline. FY 2007 funding for the program is $5 million.

All states have received an adoption incentive payment during at least one year out of the past seven. In 2006, 21 states qualified for $11.6 million. 2 Many states experienced their greatest increase in adoptions from 1997 to 1999, the initial years incentives were provided. Under the original formula, a state had to exceed the year it had its highest number of adoptions to continue to receive an incentive payment. As states successfully reduced the number of children in their child welfare systems, however, this became more and more difficult each year.
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 child in foster care adopted above the established baseline of children adopted from foster care;

  • $6,000 for each child in foster care adopted whom the state classifies as having special needs, as long as the state also increases the total number of children adopted;

  • $8,000 for each older child in foster care (age 9 or older) adopted above the baseline of older foster child adoptions, as long as the state also increases the total number of children adopted; and

  • $4,000 for each older child in foster care adopted above the baseline of older foster child adoptions when the number of older foster child adoptions increases, but the overall number of children adopted from foster care 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, they are returned to the federal government and not reallocated for other adoption efforts.

Adoption Support Under Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF)
Congress reauthorized the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF) in 2006 with the enactment of the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-288). The reauthorization added funding to enhance court improvement programs and create new programs to address substance abuse and workforce development. The core PSSF program did not change, except for tribal governments. The amount of funding set aside or designated for tribal government was streamlined and tribal governments can form consortia to draw down their share of PSSF funds.

PSSF, formerly the Family Preservation and Support Services Program, is an important source of federal funding for an array of services for families with children, including support for adoptive families. Funds are allocated to states according to their relative shares of children receiving food stamps, subject to a 25% nonfederal match.

The 1997 reauthorization added two additional categories of service: time-limited reunification services, and adoption promotion and support services. Guidance issued from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires states to allocate no less than 20% to the four types of services, unless there is a strong rationale to do otherwise. The 2006 reauthorization did not change this requirement. In FY 2007, funding for PSSF is $395 million, with at least 20% available for adoption support.

Adoption Opportunities Program
The Adoption Opportunities Program provides discretionary grants for demonstration projects that eliminate barriers to adoption and aim to 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 2007-the same level of funding that has been in place since FY 2003.

The Adoption Opportunities Program provides several resources and supports to help with the adoption of children, including the Collaboration to AdoptUsKids, which recruits families for children waiting to be adopted through its National Recruitment Campaign. As of December 2006, 7,123 children had been listed and placed in adoptive homes on the website. Other pieces of the AdoptUsKids Cooperative agreement include an annual summit, a national adoption workgroup, research on adoption, support for adoptive parent groups, the AdoptUsKids photolisting site, and training and technical help for states as needed.

A major success has been the number of sibling groups families have been able to adopt. Of the total number of children adopted from foster care through AdoptUsKids efforts, 2,440 children were from 992 sibling groups. The average sibling group size was 2.7 children and more than 100 of these sibling groups included groups of four or more siblings. Of all the children placed through AdoptUsKids, the average age of a child at placement was 10.1 years old, and the ages of the children placed spanned from 2 months to 20 years old.

Other examples of how the Adoption Opportunities Program funding has helped include:
  • the National Resource Center on Special Needs Adoption, providing technical help and training to state, tribal, and other child welfare organizations on current issues in special-needs adoption, such as compliance with federal laws and regulations, permanency planning, and cultural competence;

  • the Information Gateway, a comprehensive information center on adoption managed by Caliber, Inc. (;

  • the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, a comprehensive information center on adoption;

  • the National Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment Campaign and the You Gotta Believe program, seeking permanent placements for older children; and

  • a focus on rural adoption, funding 10 discretionary grants across the nation to explore and develop rural adoption, along with a focus on older youth permanency through nine discretionary grants to agencies placing older teens in permanent homes.
Interstate Barriers to Adoption
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. This can take a very long time and greatly delay the adoption. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) governs these interstate procedures. After several months of discussion, a new compact has been drafted and states are now in the process of adopting the new ICPC, which was originally agreed to more than 40 years ago.

In 2006, Congress approved the Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act (P.L. 109-239). The legislation, sponsored by former Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX), speeds up the placement of adoptive children and children in foster care across state lines. Under the law, a state receiving a request to place a child for adoption or foster care must conduct a home study within 60 days. The state making the request then must respond within 14 days of receiving the home study results. The legislation does not require states to include the completion of education and training of prospective foster or adoptive parents within the 60-day timeframe since this training may extend beyond a 60-day period. The new law also establishes a small incentive fund to states, providing $1,500 for every home study completed within a 30-day timeframe.

The Need For Postadoption Services
Historically, most federal adoption support has been targeted toward promoting adoptions. As time passes and adoptive families increase, however, there is a corresponding need to address some of the challenges that may surface in later years for these families through postadoption services. The most common postadoption services include support groups, crisis intervention, child and family advocacy, adoption searches, case management, family therapy, mental health treatment, respite care, and targeted case management. Some adoption agencies also provide chemical abuse treatment, day treatment, and intensive in-home supervision, indicating a strong commitment to making adoption placements work.
Funding for these important services has been drawn from a mix of federal, state, local, and private funds. In a 2006 survey of CWLA member agencies involved with adoption, more than a third of respondents reported using contract money through the state or county child welfare agency to support these services. 3 Other government funding includes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), adoption incentive grants, adoption opportunities grants, Medicaid, and state mental health funding. For the rest of the agencies, funding appears to be challenging, with many using funding sources other than public agency contracts or funds to pay for their postadoption services. A few agencies receive small grants from foundations to pay for programs. Some agencies charge families for postadoption services, using a sliding scale based on family income. More than two-thirds of agencies surveyed support these services independently because they either have no outside funding, or the funding does not cover the total cost of services.

Key Facts

Current federal adoption supports are important, but maintaining the status quo is insufficient. Despite strides to promote adoptions, as these statistics reveal, the need continues:
  • 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; 47,000 in 1999; 51,000 in 2000; 51,000 in 2001; 52,000 in 2002; 50,000 in 2003; and 51,993 in 2004. 4

  • Of the 509,662 children in foster care in 2004, approximately 117,436 were waiting to be adopted. 5

  • In 2004, 65,000 children in foster care had parental rights terminated for all living parents. 6

  • Of the children waiting to be adopted from foster care as of September 2004, 38% were black, non-Hispanic; 38% were white, non-Hispanic; 14% were Hispanic; and 3% were of undetermined ethnicity. 7

  • In 2004, the median age of children waiting to be adopted was 8.7 years. Four percent of the children waiting to be adopted were younger than 1 year; 32% were ages 1 to 5; 25% were ages 6 to 10; 30% were 11 to 15; and 9% were 16 to 18. 8

  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2004, 2% were younger than age 1; 42% were ages 1 to 5; 28% were ages 6 to 10; 18% were 11 to 15; and 3% were 16 to 18. 9

  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2004, 59% were adopted by their foster parents; 16% were adopted by a nonrelative; and 24% were adopted by a relative. 10

  • Of the children adopted from foster care in 2004, 42% waited more than one year from the time they became legally free for adoption until they were adopted. 11


  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means. (2004). Title IV Adoption Assistance Program. (Available in the 2004 Green Book). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. back
  2. Administration for Children and Families. (2006). HHS News. Available online. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services. back
  3. CWLA survey of post-adoption services. (2006). Available online. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America. back
  4. Child Welfare League of America. (2006). Special tabulation of the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System. Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
  5. Ibid. back
  6. U.S. Children's Bureau. (2006). AFCARS report #11: Preliminary estimates published April 2005. Available online. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. back
  7. Ibid. back
  8. Ibid. back
  9. Ibid. back
  10. Ibid. back
  11. Ibid. back

CWLA Contact

John Sciamanna

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