UPDATE: The deadline for the “Dear Colleague” letter has passed, but we will continue to provide updates on this legislation. Thank you for being an advocate for children in U.S. foster care, as every child deserves a loving and secure home.
As we work to ensure every child has a loving and secure home, advocacy has remained a cornerstone of Holt’s work. To that end, we regularly support legislation that aims to improve child welfare standards, strengthen the rights of adoptees, and clears the path for more children to join permanent, loving families through adoption in the U.S. and abroad. Together, we can work toward a world where no child is left without a family.
This week, you can join Holt and help advocate for children in U.S. foster care who are waiting for permanent, loving families through adoption.
How can I help?
Recently, House of Representatives members Jim Langevin (Democrat, Rhode Island) and Don Bacon (Republican, Nebraska) circulated a letter to their colleagues for support of the Adoption Opportunities program in the Fiscal Year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. They request at least $50 million in funding to help find families for children living in foster care through this program.
Friday, March 22 is the deadline for representatives to act.
Right now, you can support this effort by contacting your House Representative — encouraging them to support this legislation!
What does the letter say?
“Dear [Your House Representative’s Name],
We respectfully request that you include at least $50 million in funding for the Adoption Opportunities program in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. In FY19, the Adoption Opportunities Program was funded at $39 million. We urge you to increase this funding to support permanent solutions for youth in foster care and help find them adoptive families when they cannot safely return home.
On any given day, over 442,000 children are living in foster care across the country, more than 120,000 of whom are awaiting adoption by a loving, caring family. The Adoption Opportunities program provides a unique opportunity for states, counties, tribes, and private organizations to invest in locally-designed, evidence-based solutions to find families for these youth and provide them with the support they need to thrive. From adoptive family recruitment to post-adoption services and caseworker training, Adoption Opportunities funds crucial programs that support foster youth.
It is the goal of every child welfare agency to find a permanent placement for each child in foster care, but each year, approximately 20,000 youth exit the foster care system without a legal family. These children are often already at a disadvantage due to early experiences of abuse, neglect, and trauma, and they can end up with no support network to turn to in times of crisis. The outcomes of youth who exit foster care on their own are extremely discouraging. Two in five youth will experience episodes of homelessness, and half will not graduate high school by age 19. Additionally, four in five young women will be pregnant by age 21, and only half of youth who age out of care will be employed at age 24. Failure to secure permanent families for youth in foster care results in substantial societal costs.
Unfortunately, the older children are when they enter the child welfare system, the more likely they are to age out of foster care, leaving too many youth without a family once they exit state custody. Increasing funding for the Adoption Opportunities program would enable states to implement programs that enhance recruitment of families who are willing to adopt, particularly older children and teens, children of color, and children with disabilities and other special needs. It will also fund the development of much-needed post-adoption services to strengthen and support families who adopt. Many families face challenges resulting from the trauma their adopted children have experienced, but there are limited evidence-based post-adoption service programs to support them. Through Adoption Opportunities, we can invest in a variety of programs and build the field’s knowledge about effective services.
Many caseworkers also face high caseloads, meaning each foster youth receives less attention and fewer resources than they deserve. Far too many children linger in the very system intended to help them find permanency. Additional funds to reduce caseloads would allow caseworkers to devote more time to provide the in-depth care necessary to find permanency for each child.
They would also allow caseworkers to undergo training in evidence-based practices that are proven to lead to higher rates of permanency for youth in foster care, including child-focused recruitment, which ensures agencies are aware of all the options for finding permanent placements. These programs have shown promising results, enabling caseworkers to find previously unidentified adoptive parents, such as relatives, fictive kin, or former foster parents.
When children are in the custody of the state, we have a moral responsibility to care for them as we would our own children. The Annie E. Casey Foundation estimates that for every young person who ages out of the foster care system, taxpayers and communities will pay $300,000 in social costs over that person’s lifetime. Investing in services to help find permanent families for youth in foster care will improve their quality of life and result in long-term societal and economic savings.
Every child deserves to have a permanent, loving family. Therefore, we respectfully urge you to fund Adoption Opportunities at no less than $50 million in Fiscal Year 2020. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
For more information please contact Kerry McKittrick with Congressman Langevin at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rachel Pearce with Congressman Bacon at email@example.com with any questions.
We encourage everyone to review the letter and contact your House Member by March 22. Ask them to support this important adoption funding, as every child deserves to have a loving, permanent family. Find your House Representative, and advocate for adoption today.