July 13,2005

Grassley Continues Work to Advance Adoption, Focusing on Special Needs Children

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, today saidhe will act on the findings of a new report to make sure federal programs work well to promote theadoption of special needs children.

“Federal adoption assistance and adoption incentive programs need to work as well as they possibly can,” Grassley said. “They’re a means to an important end, and that’s permanent homes for children. Today’s findings show that these programs are helping, but we have to do more. I’ll work to help make these programs 100 percent effective. It’s a no-brainer to protect children’s welfare.”

Grassley was a lead requester of a report from the Government Accountability Office, whichhe released today at an event with adopted youth, including an Iowan, Sean Maudlin of Indianola. Maudlin was adopted at age 12 after stints in foster care and is now an honor student who will attend college in the fall.

The report said the federal incentives to promote foster-care adoptions that Congress adoptedin 2003, 2001 and 1997 have contributed to an increased number of adoptions. However, challenges remain, including:

• the need to improve sharing of reliable data on how best to recruit adoptive families;

• the need for better integration of and coordination among the courts and state agencies tohelp address court delays;

• and better procedures for placing children across state lines.

Grassley said he looks forward to working with the Department of Health and HumanServices to improve data collection and dissemination and to working on legislation to bettercoordinate the courts and state agencies and streamline interstate placement.

As chairman of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over taxes, Grassley said he alsoremains committed to advancing tax policies that help promote adoptions. In the 2001 tax relief law,Grassley expanded the adoption tax credit to help prospective parents with adoption expenses. Healso doubled the income-tax exclusion for employer-provided adoption benefits. “We need to makethese successful initiatives a permanent part of the tax code,” Grassley said.

Grassley said it’s also time to build on the progress made since Congress created newincentives for states to promote foster-care adoptions with the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003,along with the new bonuses that were created for states with the Adoption and Safe Families Act of1997.

“The blessings of adoption have enriched the lives of families across America,” Grassleysaid. “There’s no doubt that public policy should continue to expand opportunities for every childto be welcomed home by a loving family every day of the week from infancy to adulthood. SeanMaudlin of Indianola is a walking, breathing adoption success story, and there are thousands of kidslike him all over the country.”

Grassley has a long track record of working to improve adoption policy. In 1997, he steeredthrough Congress legislation aimed at improving the permanent placement of children assigned tothe public foster care system. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 established new bonusesfor states which improve the successful reunification of families and increase the adoption andplacement of foster children into safe, permanent, loving homes. From 1998 to 2002, the statesplaced more than 230,000 foster children in adoptive homes – almost the same number of kidsadopted in the previous 10 years.

Grassley’s work on the tax front is significant. To help promote adoptions and giveprospective parents help with the expenses incurred during the adoption process, under his leadershipin 2001, Congress doubled the adoption tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000. The expanded adoptiontax credit includes domestic foster care, private and overseas adoptions. The credit begins to phaseout for families with adjusted gross income over $150,000. The 2001 tax law also doubled theincome tax exclusion to $10,000 allowed for employer-provided adoption benefits.

Today’s GAO report, GAO-05-292, “Child Welfare/Better Data and Evaluations CouldImprove Processes and Programs for Adopting Children with Special Needs,” will be available atwww.gao.gov.

Grassley made his remarks during an afternoon congressional briefing by Voice forAdoption. In 1994, this national advocacy organization presented Grassley its first-ever legislatorof the year award for his work to win passage of the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act. Grassleyis a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.