We are in the thick of political debates, fiscal cliffs and sequestration. Meanwhile, children who have no voice in any of these discussions continue to linger in foster care, age out, and wonder when we adults will get a grip and work harder and smarter on their behalf.
There are some significant policy efforts circling now that can positively impact children and families in the child welfare system, for example:
Adoption Tax Credit / Making Adoption Affordable Act (H.R. 4373) and Senate Adoption Tax Credit Bill (S. 3616)
In 1997, Dave Thomas advocated for the original adoption tax credit legislation, to help offset the expenses related to adoption and to support families who stepped forward to adopt from foster care. Since the original legislation, adoption tax credit efforts have been a non-partisan issue, widely supported by Congress, but subject to extensions, changes and rotating authority – from the Small Business Act of 1996 to the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 and currently the Tax Relief Act at the end of 2010. During this time, tax credits have ranged from $5,000 to $13,170. It has applied to special needs and non-special needs adoptions, has been indexed for inflation, has allowed “carry-forward” credits, and for a period was fully refundable.
Confused? Adoptive parents too often receive wrong or conflicting advice about eligibility and benefits and the IRS has been challenged to keep pace with the changes and amounts owed to tax filers.
We have an opportunity this year to eliminate the confusion while helping the thousands of families who adopt. Please call your Representative and Senators, ask them to sign on to either H.R. 4373 or S. 3616 to make the adoption tax credit permanent (tax code permanency ensures continued and consistent support for adoptive families), refundable (insures that middle- to lower-income families who adopt receive full benefit of the credit), inclusive of all types of adoption, and remain a “flat” credit for children with special needs (families who adopt children with special needs should be able to claim the maximum amount without documenting expenses, in recognition that many special needs expenses occur post-adoption).
This is an easy effort! The Families for Youth Stamp Act adds no cost to the federal budget, is bipartisan, and is a creative way to put more resources toward effective programs that children in America’s foster care system so desperately need. This bill would create a semi-postal (or charity) stamp to raise funds to go toward effective programs to improve the outcomes for foster youth. Half of the funds will go specifically for programs focused on improving permanency outcomes for older youth through adoption, kinship care, or guardianship. The other half will go toward the State Court Improvement Program to better the ability of the courts to serve those in the child welfare system.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 3231 – the Families for Foster Youth Stamp Act.
Your voice is critical, whether or not you have adopted. Dave Thomas frequently reminded us that “these children are not someone else’s responsibility. They are our responsibility.” Help us speak up for children in foster care and for the families who take the wonderful journey of adoption — they deserve our every effort to support their success.