Adoptive parents and children urge passage of Grassley legislation to move more children from foster care to permanent homes
Iowa senator works to move more children from foster care to permanent homes
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley marked National Foster Care Month byintroducing legislation today that would help children with special needs in foster care get placedin safe, permanent and loving homes.
Grassley said the “Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Actof 2008" builds on the success of previous initiatives to reauthorize the Safe and Stable FamiliesAct of 1997. The 1997 law created the Adoption Incentive Program which needs to bereauthorized this year. It has increased the number of adoptions of children in foster care eachyear, though Grassley said that number has leveled in many states and new incentives are neededto continue the important gains in permanent placement.
Families from Des Moines, Waverly, Iowa City, Ankeny and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, joinedGrassley at a news conference this morning to share their experiences with special needsadoption and express their support for the new legislation.
“These parents are extraordinary for their commitment to children. Few things are aspowerful as the desire of children in foster care for a safe and permanent home. Together, theyhave built loving families that are an inspiration for all of us,” Grassley said. The senator saidhis new legislation recognizes that public policy ought to encourage and foster more adoptionsfor everyone’s benefit, especially children.
Parents participating in today’s event were: Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw of Des Moines,Adarienne and Jerry Burrow of Waverly, Jackie Hammers-Crowell of Iowa City, Cheryl andChris McCoy of Ankeny, Andreah Moyer of Des Moines, and Erica Zito of Cedar Rapids.In 2005, over 900 children in Iowa’s foster care system were adopted. Today, 9,040children in Iowa are in foster care and 1,432 of them are eligible for adoption. Nationwide, morethan 500,000 children are in foster care and 127,000 of them are eligible for placement in apermanent home.
Grassley’s new bill would increase payments to states for finalizing adoptions forchildren with special needs, create an additional payment for states that exceed the state’shighest rate of all adoptions from foster care, make all children with special needs eligible forfederal adoption assistance (current law limits assistance to children removed from very lowincome families), and establish a new pathway for permanence by allowing states to receivefederal reimbursement for payments made to relatives who are legal guardians and are caring forchildren who would otherwise by in foster care.
The Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act has beenendorsed by the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association, the Kids Are Waiting: Fix FosterCare Now campaign sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the North American Council onAdoptable Children, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and the National Foster CareCoalition. Letters of support from these organizations are posted with this news release athttp://grassley.senate.gov and http://finance.senate.gov.
Grassley has long advocated changes to public policy that promote adoption and matchchildren in foster care with safe, permanent and loving families. He co-authored the Adoptionand Safe Families Act of 1997, which established the Adoption Incentive Program. He authoredprovisions in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 that increased the federal funding stream forprograms designed to help keep troubled families together, improve child support collection anddistribution, boost direct child support payments, and promote responsible fatherhood and healthmarriages. Senator Grassley also worked to secure federal funding for grants to train judges,attorneys and legal personnel in child welfare cases. He has protected federal funding for SocialServices Block Grants that help fund child welfare services.
In 2001, as Chairman of the tax-writing committee in the Senate, Senator Grassleysponsored tax incentives that promote adoptions. Also in 2006, Senator Grassley convened thefirst Finance Committee hearing on child welfare in over a decade and co-authored the Child andFamily Services Improvement Act of 2006, which included reauthorization of the PromotingSafe and Stable Families Act, improvements in state child welfare systems and establishment ofa monthly caseworker standard.
Highlights of the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008 Adoption Improvements
-- Extension and re-basing of the Adoption Incentive Program
-- Extends through 2013
-- Establishes a new base year (2007) for the Adoption Incentive program - this is needed because after a significant initial increase in adoptions, a number of states can no longerreceive the incentive.
-- Increases payments to states for finalizing adoptions, exceeding the number in 2007, ofchildren in foster care, with payments targeted toward adoptions of special needs childrenas defined by the state ages 9 and younger and children over age 9.
-- Creates an additional payment for states that exceed the state's highest rate of alladoptions from foster care.
-- De-link eligibility for Adoption Assistance, making all children with special needseligible for federal adoption assistance. Under current law, only children removed fromfamilies meeting the 1996 AFDC income standard are eligible for adoption assistance,resulting in a steady erosion of federal support of adoptions of special needs children.
Improved Permanency Options
Relative Guardianship Support
-- Establishes a new pathway for permanence by allowing states to receive federalreimbursement for payments made to legal relative guardians caring for children whowould otherwise be in foster care. For these children, courts have already ruled outreunification and adoption.
-- Establishes a broad range of information and notification requirements for relatives oncea child has been place in care.
-- Allows unobligated funds from the Adoption Incentive program to be made available tostates that adopt the Relative Guardianship option and successfully help children leavefoster care for permanent homes with relatives.
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