business man on phone

This post (admittedly a little old, published back in March of this year) raises an interesting question: are the subsidies adoptive parents receive for adopting children through the foster care system tantamount to the buying and selling of those children?

I should note that the website publishing this piece has an obvious mission, evident in its name and URL ("How Child Protection Services Buys and Sells Our Children" at protectingourchildrenfrombeingsold.wordpress.com). So, as always, critical reading is necessary.

But in this case, the post in question has essentially just copied and pasted from its source material, which appears to be a post from an adult who adopted foster children outlining the benefits -- to parents and to the children -- of adopting through the foster care system.  (Interestingly, the post which it quotes extensively from appears to have been removed from that site. So, for the purposes of this article, I'm only quoting the first-linked piece.)

Here's the quote that caught my eye, which reveals a truth I'm pretty sure most people will be surprised to learn:

3. Our children qualify for an adoption subsidy. The daily rate is typically $13.85-28.85 PER DAY until the child graduates from high school or is 18 and not in school. 2 of our children qualify for a much higher daily rate as they have intensive medical and emotional needs. This allows me the financial freedom to stay home full time and my husband to take a job working 35 hours a week, 40 weeks a year teaching auto mechanics to high school students. Daddy can now be home more and be more involved with the kids.

(emphasis in the article)

You can find out more about the adoption subsidy through this government-published PDF file.  As stated in that publication, adoption subsidies can be either one-time aid, or ongoing or recurrent assistance, available through state and private agencies when the children are deemed "eligible."

After the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, states are now required to have two sets of eligibility criteria, but that dual-track approach will be phased out in 2018 if the legislation is not amended before that point. Eligibility criteria are based on a multi-factored approach, with the state agency deciding on eligibility based on a number of factors, including:

  1. Whether the child is considered to be an “applicable child” under the new eligibility criteria
  2. Whether the child qualifies as "special needs" under the agency's guidelines
  3. Whether certain factors providing the child a “pathway” into the program are found, including: the legal and financial circumstances of the original removal action; how the child was removed from his home; whether the biological parents of the child are themselves minors in foster care; whether the child is eligible in part or in full for Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and other factors
  4. Whether the child meets certain citizenship and immigration status requirements
  5. Whether the prospective adoptive parents have passed a Federal criminal records check

The amount of the funds that may be at stake here are not pittances or nominal amounts. Those per diem amounts add up to quite a bit of financial assistance, and some have argued recently that these subsidy payments amount to significant motivation on the part of various players in the CPS system -- including the agencies themselves, which also receive subsidies for each child placed into a foster home and subsequently successfully adopted by the foster parents -- to increase the numbers of children permanently placed in this manner.

That's in direct opposition to the other mandate CPS agencies are supposed to be operating under: the reunification of the original family, whenever possible.

I'm certainly not arguing that every foster parent who adopts is solely motivated by financial incentives, nor am I arguing that every (or even most) foster adoptions are "bad." But I do think the issue deserves to be considered and debated, especially in light of the overly-aggressive tactics I see in many cases where abuse and neglect has been alleged, many times falsely.

It's worth thinking about.

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