Last October, when HHS awarded the annual adoption incentives, now renamed the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments Program, the awards were much less than the fifty states had earned. The awards now based on adoptions and kinship placement increases that took place in federal fiscal year 2014 (FY ’14) were funded from FY 2015.  Total FY 15 funding available was $18 million despite the appropriations of $38 million.  The $18 million awarded was only 38 percent of what states should have been awarded meaning that the total should have been closer to $45 to $46 million.

That reduced total was distributed because, since the incentive fund was created under the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), HHS has been able to adjust a lack of full funding in one year by taking from the following year’s appropriations.

In the beginning years Congress would recognize this and provide an extra amount of appropriation that attempted to address both the shortfall as well as the next year’s awards. In the last decade it was not a problem since appropriators would add enough to cover both the previous year shortfall and the next year’s awards. In addition, such a shortfall did not happen every year.

Congress has stopped appropriating funds in that way and in fact in recent years was cutting the Adoption Incentive Fund from its high of approximately $43 million to the current total of $38 million as a result of the appropriation sequestration across-the-board cuts. Thus despite earning $45 million last year states received $18 million. That shortfall will be made up from the current year awards but it likely means that the new awards released in October of this year are likely to be limited to no more than $10 million

The Administration’s new budget request for FY ‘17 is the same incentive funding level of $38 million despite the looming shortfall. The bottom line, unless states dramatically slow in adoptions and kinship placements the incentive fund will continue to shrink. CWLA along with several other adoption organizations will be requesting additional funds through appropriations to both cover last year’s shortfall of $28 million as well as the current request in the Administration’s budget of $38 million.

The incentive fund, extended in 2014 will have to be reauthorized again as part of the Title IV-B programs. Since the last reauthorization was just two years ago (most reauthorizations are for five years) it is unlikely anyone will be seeking big changes.

The current awards were revised in last year’s Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act in several ways:

  • In addition to rewarding an increase in adoption from foster care, states are awarded based on increases in subsidized guardianships.
  • The awards were adjusted in terms of categories of adoptions/guardianship placements so that $5000 is earned per increased adoptions, $4000 for overall kinship placements $7500 per pre-adolescent (9 to 14) adoption/guardianship placements, $10,000 per increase in in older adoption/kinship placements (ages 14 and older)
  • The awards as always are based on an increase over the previous year but this formula is based on a rate increase instead a specific number. That is intended to allow states that have been reducing their foster care population (thus reducing the pool of children waiting for adoption) to receive an award for positive permanency policies.
  • All awards for guardianships are new and the formula and the subcategory targeting ages 9 through 14 is new and is an attempt to place a greater focus on a population that have represented an increased presence in the waiting to be adopted category.

For more information on individual state awards through the history of the incentive fund you can go to the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments Program.