- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The federal government yesterday awarded $17.5 million in bonuses to states that increased their adoptions of children in foster care.
Maryland got the second-highest bonus, with $1.5 million. Virginia received the ninth-highest, with $922,000, and the District did not qualify for one.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson praised the 23 bonus-winning states and Puerto Rico for their efforts to increase their foster care adoptions in 2001 over 2000.
"Behind the statistics there are real children whose lives are better for having been adopted," he said. "We encourage states to do everything they can to find permanent, loving homes for all children who are waiting."
California had the largest bonus $4.3 million for increasing its adoptions from 8,221 in 2000 to 8,852 in 2001.
Maryland increased its adoptions by 52 percent, from 528 in 2000 to 801 in 2001. Virginia had a similar increase, going from 321 adoptions to 491. West Virginia also received a $144,000 bonus for increasing its adoptions 3 percent, from 350 to 360.
In all, an estimated 50,000 children were adopted from foster care in fiscal year 2001, essentially the same as in 2000, said an HHS spokeswoman. Still, these numbers represent a nearly 79 percent increase in adoptions since fiscal year 1997, when 28,000 children were adopted from foster care.
The bonus was created in the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) as part of its efforts to reform state foster care systems and move abused and neglected children more quickly into permanent homes.
Typically, children spend between two and six years in foster care, often in multiple homes, while authorities work to help their parents regain custody or find new permanent homes for the children.
Under the ASFA bonus system, states receive $4,000 or $6,000 per child for adoptions that exceed the previous year's number. The larger amount is awarded if the adopted child has "special needs," such as a disability, being part of a sibling group or a minority group, or being of school age.
There were some 131,000 foster-care children waiting for adoption as of September 2000, the latest figure available from HHS. The agency estimates that at least 88 percent of these waiting children have special needs.

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