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Federal bonus bucks to the states for moving kids out of foster into adoptions (regardless of the damage)

My last two posts have been important “Basic Building Blocks Posts” (BBBPs) that serve as backgrounder information to bear in mind as one looks at foster care-adoption financial incentives.

In them, I’ve discussed both

  • How newborns and infants particularly those passing through the baby dump/ “safe haven” or “baby Moses” schemes can be counted by the states in their foster-adopt totals even as the newborns can go directly into prospective adoptive families  in a process not dissimilar to other newborn adoptions but for additional layers such as the the foster-adopt bonuses states receive as a result of tabulating the adoptions this way.
  • How the fatally flawed “Adoption and Safe Families Act” has had the effect of severing parental rights and making additional kids available to the foster-adoption process as any child spending 15 of their last 22 months in foster care triggers the required action of child welfare authorities having to file for termination of parental rights (there is some leeway built into the process, but the law has created a built in trigger) this despite the fact that 70% of kids in foster care will spent an average length of time of somewhere between 1 and 23 months in the foster system.

The (mostly) mandatory triggers have had disastrous results of parents in prison for example, who have endured the termination of their parental rights at more than double the rate of the years before the law passed.

The effects on other families, such as those whose kids end up in foster care as a result of a parent in military service for example, remains to be seen.


With all this in mind, tonight’s brief post will be about this latest round of  federal dollars being used as incentives to the states pushing through adoptions out of foster care.

Back in mid-September, HHS announced the federal awards to the states & Puerto Rico for their performance in clearing out their foster care rolls via adoptions in 2009.

The bonus checks came to 39 million dollars.

When I speak of adoption as simply federal priority and policy at this point, programs like this are precisely what I mean.

States receive $4,000 for every child adopted beyond their best year’s total, plus a payment of $8,000 for every child age 9 and older and $4,000 for every special needs child adopted above the respective baselines. The year 2007 is the baseline.

Put simply, states receive cash bonuses for every child they move off the foster care rolls and into adoptions. A single child can be worth up to $12,000 in bonuses to the states.

(Older kids are of course, far more difficult to find potential adoptive families for, so new sources of much more marketable newborn foster kids such as the baby dump programs then become invaluable to the states.)

On the face of it, the notion of finding permanency for kids in the system may sound like a laudable goal, particularly as one of the primary adoption outcomes for kids in foster care are adoptions by other relatives, but as I pointed out in my first backgrounder post there are other trends growing, hidden under some of that same language.

I’m specifically, discussing kids who would not have had their family ties severed, but for the time tables artificially constructed and imposed under new laws like the A&SFA, or kids who never would have entered the foster system in the first place, but for states constructing their legalized child abandonment schemes. Both of these circumstances create new foster-adopt candidates where before, these kids simply were not available to the foster-adopt process at all.

Kids in foster care having their family ties severed due to artificially imposed timetables of what some in Washington think are appropriate lengths of time for any kid to be in foster care  would otherwise simply remain in care  longer. While that may sound like a disaster to someone in Washington not familiar with any given child’s case, it may actually be a more positive outcome through the eyes of a child waiting for their mother to get out of prison or who is in a foster home with their sibling and doesn’t want to see their parents’ parental rights cut and their siblings passed along into adoptions far from one another, perhaps never to be heard from again.

Kids passing into the legalized abandonment schemes might otherwise remain with their mothers or parents, go to relatives, or eventually go into a traditional adoption with at least some form of the social/family/medical history left intact.

While states may view foster care as a horrible “evil,” for some families it’s a necessary pause or even safety net that can actually help families ultimately remain together in the long run.

Odd as it may seem to be writing any form of defense of an institution like foster care, there are times and circumstances under which it can actually form the better alternative.

Such should be decided case by case, family by family, not with top down quotas set by politicians or states looking at their financial inflow and outlays.

When a child is in foster care, they retain their name, their family history and at least the prospect of either reuniting or entering some other branch of their existing family tree.

Adoption, on the other hand, with strangers at least is often about breaking those ties.

The child, even an older child, often gets a new name. If they were part of a sibling group but were adopted separately those ties may or may not be maintained. The “new family” may become distressed or upset by any mention of ‘what came before,’ thus new adoptees learn quickly to keep the realities of their earlier lives tamped down, a private and personal thing, not discussed within the adoptive household context.

State and Federal governments may view every adoptive placement as some form of victory, but for the kids and families themselves that lie behind those statistics and checks, the story can be a lot more complicated.

Obviously, I’m only focusing on these two circumstances as useful studies, but there are other means by which kids are being made available to the process as well.

So, how much do all these $4,000s and $8,000s add up to over the course of a year for the states? For some states, millions.

In the case of  Texas the nation’s leader at scraping kids out of the foster system, just a little under 7 and a half million for 2009.

FY 2010 Adoption Incentive Awards

Based on FY 2009 Earning Year

State
Award
Alabama
$1,477,397
Alaska
$719,213
Arizona
$584,582
Arkansas
$1,360,481
California
$0
Colorado
$0
Connecticut
$520,809
Delaware
$102,745
Dist of Columbia
$0
Florida
$5,718,271
Georgia
$364,921
Hawaii
$187,775
Idaho
$1,147,906
Illinois
$155,888
Indiana
$1,360,481
Iowa
$0
Kansas
$531,438
Kentucky
$1,371,110
Louisiana
$1,006,189
Maine
$113,373
Maryland
$173,603
Massachusetts
$0
Michigan
$3,511,033
Minnesota
$446,408
Mississippi
$38,972
Missouri
$510,180
Montana
$0
Nebraska
$637,726
Nevada
$467,665
New Hampshire
$49,601
New Jersey
$0
New Mexico
$658,983
New York
$0
North Carolina
$1,077,048
North Dakota
$0
Ohio
$0
Oklahoma
$1,204,593
Oregon
$637,726
Pennsylvania
$2,175,353
Rhode Island
$198,403
South Carolina
$655,440
South Dakota
$60,230
Tennessee
$0
Texas
$7,468,475
Utah
$432,236
Vermont
$0
Virginia
$14,172
Washington
$0
West Virginia
$1,030,990
Wisconsin
$276,348
Wyoming
$49,601
Puerto Rico
$382,635

Kids may be deemed “priceless,” but when it comes to outlays for foster care and  federal subsidies for foster-adopt, they’re just lines on the budget.

What that means to the kids and their families themselves is all too often, simply ignored.

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