- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - After about a year of fostering toddler Antoinette, Jackie Townsend adopted the 5-year-old she describes as the “prettiest little thing.”

That was five years ago, and the Fort Wayne woman has spent the entire time on a waiting list for a state adoption subsidy that has never been paid.

Meanwhile, the Department of Child Services has returned tens of millions in unspent money to the General Fund; lawmakers have cut taxes for corporations and built a nearly $2 billion surplus.

“I love children, but people need a little help,” Townsend told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1p3hzy7), noting the typical needs of a growing child - food, clothing, school activities and braces. “If there was funding, I definitely think more people would adopt.”

Townsend, 53, continues to foster kids through ResCare Youth Services in Fort Wayne, but hopes legislators will reconsider their decision on the subsidy in the 2015 budget session. The amount of money could be as little as $20 a day, depending on the special needs of the child.

“There are so many children out there that really need a good home,” she said. “I hope my prayers will be answered and the funding will come through.”

Gov. Mike Pence supported a new state adoption credit earlier this year and says he wants to make Indiana the most pro-adoption state in America. But he is staying mum on whether his administration will provide money for the state adoption subsidy.

“We also have initiated a blue-ribbon panel to examine adoption policies in Indiana and other states and I’m confident that topic will be among those discussed,” he said. “I’m very anxious to identify policies - including resources - that will achieve my objective.”

But at least one budget steward - Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville - hasn’t been convinced.

Two years ago he had a special hearing on the topic, and administration officials said Indiana adoptive parents are receiving other services outside the subsidy that make up for it.

“It’s worthwhile to review all sides of the issue,” he said. “But if it’s just an effort to promote cash payments without evaluating the other services and the rate of adoptions, then I won’t be too interested. If the adoption rate is falling, I’m open to it.”

Adoption data on the DCS website stopped being updated in April 2012. That year ended with 1,282 adoptions. In 2013, the number dropped to 1,033, DCS spokesman James Wide said. That number is down from a high of almost 1,800 adoptions in 2011.

The 2013 number is the lowest since 2005.

“I personally have not been privy to DCS stats for a number of years,” said Chris Morrison, executive director of the Indiana Foster Care and Adoption Association. “I suspect it will show adoptions have gone down based on anecdotal evidence and lack of resources.”

Cathleen Graham, executive director of IARCCA, an association of children and family services, said it’s a necessary program that should be funded.

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