2007-12-07 / Community

Clinton Introduces Adoption Improvement Act

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John Rockefeller have announced the introduction of the Adoption Improvement Act of 2007. The bill establishes a demonstration project aimed at improving the retention of adults who inquire with child welfare agencies about adopting children from foster care.

"We have made important advances in the child welfare system since the Adoption and Safe Families Act was introduced a decade ago, but we still have work to do in order to increase the number of adoptions nationwide," Senator Clinton said, "This initiative will help the tens of thousands of children still waiting for families find permanent, loving homes."

"I believe that success today is when we hear of a child who has found a loving home, and when we see a sad situation turn into an inspirational story of hope," Senator Rockefeller said. "But success tomorrow will be when we reach each and every child - when not one is left wondering who is there to love them, when not one is left without a nurturing home."

A recent study conducted by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in collaboration with Harvard University and the Urban Institute indicates that while 240,000 prospective parents inquire annually about adopting a child from foster care, only a fraction of these individuals follow the process through to adoption. According to this study, 78 percent of adults who call for more information about becoming adoptive parents neither fill out an application nor attend an orientation meeting for prospective parents. Only 6 percent of those who call for information actually complete an adoption homestudy, a requirement for all parents seeking to adopt. Prospective adoptive parents encounter a number of barriers that discourage them from adopting, such as unpleasant initial contacts with the child welfare system and frustration in navigating the adoption process.

This situation persists at a time when tens of thousands of children linger in foster care, awaiting permanent families. According to the most recent federal data, there are 114,000 children in foster care with the goal of adoption. Only 13 percent of these children live in pre-adoptive homes. For years, child welfare researchers have highlighted the detrimental effects of prolonged foster care on children. Permanence for these children is therefore essential.

The Adoption Improvement Act helps child welfare agencies in their quests to find permanence for children in foster care. The legislation establishes a demonstration project to help child welfare agencies retain prospective adoptive parents throughout the adoption process. Participating agencies will create their programs according to recommendations drawn from child welfare research. Program elements will include, among others: establishing an adoption hotline; hiring specially trained professionals to answer adoption inquiries efficiently and sensitively; providing prospective parents with explicit information about the adoption process, its rewards and challenges; and incorporating the input of parents who have already adopted from foster care.

This bill marks another initiative in Senator Clinton's long history of working toward increasing and improving the adoption of children from foster care. As First Lady, Senator Clinton worked with Congress to establish the Adoption Incentives program, and in the Senate she has fought to increase the adoption tax credit, and has cosponsored legislation aimed at increasing adoptions of foster children with special needs.

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