The Children’s Bureau has released the latest history of the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentives Payment Program—Earnings History by State. The table also shows the state awards in FY 2019. FY 2019 ended on September 30, 2019, and the awards of $75 million in appropriated funds are provided to states based on their ability to increase adoptions and some legal guardianships of children in foster care.

The original incentive fund was established under the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) as a way to encourage states to provide permanency for children in foster care. Over the years, it has been adjusted to focus increased attention on older children waiting to be adopted. Since ASFA’s enactment in 1997, the annual number of children leaving foster care for adoption has risen from roughly 28,000 at the end of the last century to more than 63,000 in 2018. In recent years adoptions have increased as the number of children waiting to be adopted has increased. In 2018, 125,000 children were in foster care waiting to be adopted, meaning parental rights had been terminated or the child has a plan for adoption with a plan to terminate parental rights. The increase in waiting children aligns with the increases in foster care numbers over the past five years, with foster care rising from 400,000 children in 2012 to 437,000 in 2018.

In 2014 the legal guardianship incentive was added in as part of the calculation. The calculation has been adjusted to be based on the rate of adoptions, whereas the original incentive was based on the actual numbers of adoptions increase over a state’s previous year number of adoptions. The rate calculation allows for states that have decreasing foster care numbers to benefit if they continue to place children in adoptions. The incentive was also adjusted in 2014 to provide a greater incentive if older children (over nine years) are placed.

It is not easy to decipher each state’s award for FY 2019 (based on FY 2018 data) because HHS has had to use the current funding to fully fund each state’s previous year awards with any remaining appropriations used to provide the current year’s award partially. This complex arrangement is because, for several years, Congress continued to appropriate $39 million a year despite states earning more than $39 million. As a result, HHS would take the appropriations and first fund what was still owed to states from the previous year. That meant there were fewer dollars available for the new awards. Since FY 2018, however, through the efforts of Voice for Adoption and CWLA and its members, Congress has heard the need to increase funding. In FY 2018, FY 2019 and now, included in proposed appropriations for FY 2020, Congress has provided $75 million per year. Gradually HHS is catching up on being able to fund a current year incentive with current year appropriation fully.

The bottom line is that for FY 2019, HHS awarded $35 million to states for their latest incentive with an approximate $40 million distributed for the previous year’s incentive. This CWLA analysis breaks out that part of the award from FY 2019 that part is for last year’s incentive payment and the partial payment for this year’s incentive payment. The chart shows your state earnings for this year by adding the last two columns together.

When you combine the remaining awards for last year and partial awards for this year the big states are: California $8.9 million, Arizona $7 million, Oklahoma $4.3 million, Illinois $4.3 million, Texas $4.1 million, Pennsylvania $3.8 million, Minnesota $2.7 million and Michigan at $2 million. Historically since 1998, the biggest total awards are Texas $94 million, California $62 million, Florida $50 million, Arizona $49 million, Oklahoma $29 million, and Indiana $24 million. The national total is $713 million.