Policy & Practice: Advocacy
Letter: July 22, 2011
To: The Honorable Senator Amy Klobuchar
RE: Supporting Adoptive Families Act of 2011
On behalf of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, we are writing this letter to express our support of the Supporting Adoptive Families Act of 2011. Our endorsement is based on extensive research that the Institute has conducted on the needs of children and families after adoption, and our hope that this bill will lead to their receiving vital post-adoption services. The Institute's research and recommendations for the development of post-adoption services – published as a report entitled "Keeping the Promise – were endorsed by over 20 leading adoption and child welfare organizations and can be accessed on our website at: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/research/2010_10_promises.php
For many years, the federal government has aggressively promoted the adoption of children from foster care who cannot return home. Legal and policy changes have succeeded in increasing adoptions from the child welfare system from about 15,000 in 1988 to 57,456 in FY2009; in all, approximately three-quarters of a million children have been adopted from foster care over the past 15 years, and an additional quarter of a million children have been adopted into the U.S. from other countries. Most of these million children come to their families with elevated risks for future developmental issues because of adverse prenatal and early-life experiences, inadequate nurture, abuse and neglect, and other factors.
Many adoptive parents do not receive the preparation necessary to understand or successfully navigate these challenges, nor do the majority of mental health professionals have the expertise to effectively serve them. The failed efforts of many families to get adequate help have led to the development of specialized post-adoption services in many states. Currently, some state programs serve any type of adoptive family, but many are available only to those who were adopted from foster care in that state.
Some, however, such as the one in Tennessee (where the return of the Russian child occurred), are free to those who adopted from foster care but will serve others for a sliding scale fee, an arrangement that could be duplicated elsewhere. Many other states have not developed such services, however, and some have completely eliminated their post-adoption programs due to budget cuts. The development of effective services to help families succeed in parenting children who came to them with multiple and complex needs is critical to the success of these adoptions.
In an overwhelming majority of cases, adoption is genuinely beneficial and permanent; however, for the minority of children with high-end needs, intense and ongoing difficulties can result in negative outcomes ranging from extreme and unremitting stress in the family to cases of child abuse, entry of the child into the child welfare system or re-placement of the child. When adoptions do fail, the economic and social costs to our country are considerable, and the toll on the children and families themselves is even greater.
Our nation has made considerable progress in finding adoptive homes for children who have suffered from maltreatment or are languishing in institutions abroad (though we need to continue making progress, particularly for older youth in care). Now we need to shift the paradigm so that our priority moves from focusing almost solely on achieving permanency to also assuring that adoptive parents receive the services that will allow them to raise their sons and daughters to healthy adulthood.
We believe that the federal government must take the lead by making a commitment to the development of post-adoption services. Guaranteeing this commitment in law and through a dedicated funding stream are the most effective ways to serve and preserve families across our country, today and into the future.
Our belief is that the Supporting Adoptive Families Act will fortify the government's commitment to the development of post-adoption services. We would encourage further consideration of a dedicated funding stream for these services, such as a requirement that all or a major part of states' savings from the adoption assistance delink enacted through the Fostering Connections Act be re-invested into post-adoption services.
Thank you for efforts on behalf of adoptive families in developing this important legislation. If the Adoption Institute can be of further help, please feel free to contact us at (617) 332-8944.
Adam Pertman, Executive Director
Susan Smith, Program Director