- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Thirty-five states and the District increased their adoptions of children in foster care last year and will receive around $11 million in bonuses, the federal government said yesterday.
Nearly 50,000 foster children were adopted in fiscal 2000, up from 46,000 in 1999, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson told some 200 adoptive families, children and advocates at a Capitol Hill rally yesterday.
States have done a good job increasing adoptions and should "use this extra money to do a better job," Mr. Thompson said. "Keep putting the pressure on, because that's what we need."
Debra Supnick, 14, who was adopted four years ago after spending nearly half her life in foster care, said, "please consider giving older children like me a chance in life."
Older, difficult children need patience, but "the truth is, we're just frightened and with your love and understanding, we can turn out OK," she said, listing as proof her latest accomplishments in singing, music, cheerleading and sports.
Mr. Thompson also praised the bipartisan introduction in the House of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act.
President Bush "has made adoption and family-support services priorities in his budget," said Mr. Thompson, who said the safe and stable families program was "one of the most worthwhile" in the federal budget.
The grant program, which was created in 1994 and runs out of funding this fiscal year, supports efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect, counsel troubled families, and keep families together when possible but place children in adoptive families when necessary.
The program has been funded at $305 million a year. The House bill, in line with a White House proposal, increases that to $505 million a year for five years, for a total increase of $1 billion.
The House bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Wally Herger, California Republican, and Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, changes the program to emphasize the need for children's safety and healthy marriages, doubles funds for state court improvement projects, creates a mentoring program for parents in prison, and funds new "education vouchers" for foster children who are aging out of the system.
"We need this bill passed now. We need it done this session," Mr. Thompson told the adoption gathering, which was sponsored by Casey Family Services, Children's Action Network, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Freddie Mac and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
The adoption bonuses announced yesterday were created in the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA) as an incentive to states to increase their adoption of children in foster care.
States receive $4,000 to $6,000 per adoption for adoptions that exceed the previous year's number.
Before AFSA passed, only 28,000 adoptions of foster care children had ever been finalized.
In fiscal 1998, the first year the bonuses were awarded, 35 states, including Maryland, were rewarded with $20 million. In 1999, 42 states, including Maryland and Virginia, plus the District, shared $20 million.
The 2000 bonus announced yesterday went to 35 states as well as the District. Maryland and Virginia were not included. The District's adoptions grew from 166 to 236, for a bonus of $112,158.
Around 134,000 children in foster care are free for adoption, the federal government says.


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