The success of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) and heightened attention to the plight of children languishing in foster care have helped many children to be adopted out of foster care. But, as of 2008, there are still 123,000 children waiting to be adopted out of foster care, and, sadly, a total of 463,000 children in foster care.
We have a lot of work to do to help these children find the loving, permanent families they deserve. Our efforts to produce positive results for these children languishing in foster care start with the following policy priorities.
The majority of children in foster care who are adopted are adopted by their foster parents. In order to increase permanency for foster children, we support policies that encourage states to increase their recruitment and retention activities. In addition, faith communities and religious leaders are a rich resource for recruitment, as there are three places of worship for every child waiting to be adopted out of foster care and . Because every major faith admonishes its believers to care for orphans, communities of faith present an excellent opportunity to find loving, forever families for these deserving children, so we work hard to keep them informed of the needs of these children waiting to be adopted out of foster care.
Current federal law restricts states' spending of their foster care dollars to placement costs. States do not have the flexibility to customize their child welfare systems to the unique needs of their children and families. As a result, they cannot adequately fund other services, such as parent recruitment, training, and post-adoption services. We support flexible funding proposals that would allow states to maintain the federal funding of their foster care program as needed. Flexible funding proposals offer states the opportunity to be timely and effective in addressing the specific challenges of their respective foster care populations and systems. We believe it does not serve the best interests of children and families for the federal government to dictate a one-size-fits-all policy for 50 very diverse states.
One of the greatest problems with foster care today is dysfunctional family courts that trap children in a lengthy process of hearings and legal technicalities, resulting in children growing older in foster care and becoming less and less likely to be adopted. The lack of performance measures and incentives for family courts makes it difficult for policymakers to praise courts for good performance and hold them accountable for poor performance.
Federal and state governments should establish an effective accountability system for family courts that: (1) defines clear performance measures for family courts; (2) measures court performance according to these standards; (3) reports these performance measures timely to policymakers with authority over the courts and to the general public; and (4) develops incentives at the state and federal levels that promote improved performance. Among the measures that should be considered are the average length of time between review hearings, the percentage of review hearings that are postponed, numbers of placements children experience while in foster care, numbers of review hearings children experience while in foster care, percentage of children in foster care 15 out of the last 22 months who are exempted from termination of parental rights and the reasons given for these exemptions, lengths of time from entry into foster care until termination of parental rights, and numbers of disruptions of placements, by type of placement.
There are 55 million married couple households in the U.S, or 471 couples for each child waiting to be adopted. Single-parent adoption is part of the solution, too, especially for older children. Agencies need assistance in learning how to recruit and counsel parents for the additional challenges that children who have suffered abuse and neglect, or have special needs, can bring.
We use special events such as National Adoption Day and Kids at Heart to raise awareness of the needs of children waiting to be adopted out of foster care. In addition, we have sponsored and produced a public service announcement featuring award-winning country music artist Rodney Atkins, our National Adoption Spokesperson, encouraging Americans to consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent. Click here to listen to the Families For All PSA by Rodney Atkins.
In 2003, Congress and the Bush Administration successfully enacted the Adoption Promotion Act, which created additional incentives for the adoption of foster children ages 9 and up. In addition, the Foster Care Independence Program helps older foster youth transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency after leaving foster care by providing them vouchers of up to $5,000 for education or vocational training.
For 33 years, NCFA has been the authoritative voice for adoption. Our research and education programs have led the way in promoting sound, ethical adoption policies and practices that have enabled children to find nurturing, permanent families through adoption.
America's Christian Credit Union (ACCU) believes every child deserves a forever family. Their adoption loan program has helped place over 700 children in loving homes. In addition to adoption loans, ACCU provides effective banking solutions to individuals and ministries that empower them to reach their financial goals while expanding God's Kingdom. Click here to read more >>