Friday, November 21, 2008

Nebraska's Child Safe Haven Law

An update on a story we've written about in the past.

From the New York Times:
Nebraska Revises Child Safe Haven Law
Published: November 21, 2008

Omaha — In an emergency session, the Nebraska legislature on Friday revised a law permitting parents or guardians to hand children over to state custody without fear of prosecution, limiting its reach to infants up to 30 days old.

Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill Friday afternoon, It will go into effect at 12:01 Saturday morning.

Full Article

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

LGBT Adoption

As the United States voted the first African African-American into office, the state of Arkansas joined Florida, Utah and Mississippi in banning unmarried couples from adopting. The ban, of course, extends to LGBT couples. This is especially disheartening news for a state in which there are "three times as many children who need homes as people willing to adopt or foster them" according to Brett Kincaid, campaign director for Arkansas Families First. Despite the result, a survey conducted by the University of Arkansas indicated that 55 percent of voters in the state opposed the ban. Public critics included former President Bill Clinton. The strongest support came from conservatives, whose grassroots efforts helped the measure to pass with nearly 57 percent of the vote.

Adoption bans have been passed under different phraseology in every state that has supported such measures. Florida and Mississippi explicitly prohibit adoption by LGBT couples, whereas Utah prevents all unmarried cohabitated couples from adopting. Arkansas’ measures are closer to those passed in Utah, as they prevent all unmarried couples from adopting, regardless of sexual orientation. As of 2006, nearly 9,000 children in Arkansas remained in foster care, with 216 "aging out" of the system. It is unfortunate that, in a state whose foster care system desperately needs help, legislation has been passed that does not even represent public opinion. Consequently, measures based more upon political ideologies than common sense have once again limited the possibilities for foster children to find a permanent home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Economic Crisis' Impact on Foster Care System Part 3

Despite the bleak outlook presented in the past two blogs, there is a wealth of assistance available to current and prospective foster parents. Foster children need loving families more than ever. The more informed you are about the benefits available, the more realistically you can decide if and when adoption is an option. Below are some of the options available in helping to make the decision to adopt an easier one:
  • Many employers offer benefits including paid or unpaid leave and reimbursement of adoption-related expenses.
  • By filling out Form 8839 you are eligible for a tax credit worth $10,960.
  • If your child qualifies, they may be eligible for reimbursements under Title IV-E.
  • In certain states, adopted children receive partial or full college tuition.
Agencies like the National Adoption Center exist to provide information on programs and incentives that improve the conditions of foster children. Talk to your social worker to see what credits and reimbursements you are eligible for. Once you’ve gotten all of the necessary information, adopting a child at such a difficult economic time might not seem so improbable.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Economic Crisis' Impact on Foster Care System Part 2

Poverty, homelessness and unemployment are some of the main contributing factors to children being placed in foster care. Considering the current economic recession, it is possible that more children than ever will be placed in foster care in the coming months. The American foster care system is already facing challenges due to a lack of funding and workers. It is difficult to recruit and hold on to trained social workers who might improve the experiences of children in foster homes, which have gained a reputation as being unsafe in recent years. According to a 2004 report in The Future of Children, “30% to 80% of children in foster care exhibit emotional and/or behavioral problems, either from their experiences before entering foster care or from the foster care experience itself.”

This makes the job of a current or prospective foster parent harder than ever. Not only are they expected to deal with a variety of developmental disorders in their children, but the networks available to assist them are becoming increasingly dysfunctional. Without the proper funding, fewer parents will consider adoption and those who do will find it harder to raise their children successfully. It is easy to forget children who are still in foster care when so many families on both ends of the adoption process are already facing problems that seem insurmountable. Consider the following statistics: 37% of foster youth aged 17–20 had not completed high school and 12% reported being homeless at least once. With poverty and homelessness as two of the main contributors to placement in foster care, the resulting statistics seem neither promising nor surprising.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Economic Crisis' Impact on Foster Care System

In the next few posts we are going to look at the impact of the current financial crisis and it's potential impact on the foster care system. America’s foster care system was in financially-bad condition even before the global financial crisis. Last fall the Washington Post reported that “in nearly every state… the cost of providing basic care for a foster child exceeds the government's foster-care reimbursement rate.” Collectively, states are reimbursed $5 billion per year towards annual foster care expenditures; a large but still inadequate number. Researchers at the University of Maryland, who conducted the study, factored in basic needs such as food and clothing. The ensuing subprime mortgage crisis and stock market crash and the resultant bail-out plans have likely halted plans for any future government increase in funding for children currently in foster care. According to the aforementioned Washington Post report, the only state that adequately covered the costs of caring for foster children was Arizona.

Over 760,000 Americans have lost their jobs in the last nine months, many of whom are either current or prospective adoptive and/or foster parents. The prices of basic needs such as food and transportation are steadily rising and tax hikes are expected for all income levels. In addition, 47 million Americans still lack health care and 400,000 face foreclosures. A 2002 study reported that for every 1,000 people who call a public child welfare agency, only 36 ultimately go on to adopt. With numbers like these, the future of America’s 130,000 foster children seems bleaker than ever.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Traditional safe haven laws were intended to allow parents (specifically mothers) in urgent situations to give up their babies to secure locations until a permanent home was found. These laws were created in response to the growing incidence of unsafe abandonment across the country and allowed parents to securely relinquish control of their children while maintaining anonymity and without facing criminal prosecution. Supporters of these laws claim that parents who would have previously “dumped” their children can now safely surrender them. Critics point out that in many cases the laws guarantee anonymity to the parents and therefore the repercussions are lessened, causing the rate of child of child abandonment to increase

In an unprecedented move, Nebraska has extended traditional safe haven laws to children as old as 17. Since Nebraska’s law went into effect on July 23, twenty seven children between 1 and 17 years old have been left by their legal guardians at state hospitals. In almost half of these cases, children were between 15 and 17 years old.

All states have safe haven laws which apply to infants between a few weeks and one year old. Nebraska allows parents to abandon “any child up to the age of 18” with the intent of “protect[ing] children who are in immediate danger of being harmed.” This modification of traditional safe haven laws has, not surprisingly, resulted in an unprecedented number of older children and teenagers, none of whom were in immediate danger, to be left at hospitals. Four of these cases involved children who were 17 years old.

The consequences of abandoning an older child are severe, including irreparable psychological and social harm. The steps that can be taken in order to ensure that a child abandoned shortly after birth will be raised effectively without a sense of fear and shame are simply not available to an older child. Thankfully, on October 29, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman called for a special session to update the new law. The session will begin Friday, Nov. 14. Gov. Heineman’s stated purpose in updating the law is to “focus on its original intent, which is to protect infants.” The proposed changes will apply the law to infants who are no more than three days old.

This story has garnered national attention and represents an extraordinary violation of children’s rights at a time when 130,000 children still remain in foster care. More importantly, the state of Nebraska needs to address the unintended consequence of twenty seven children now left in state care under a law which was clearly flawed.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Interacial Adoption

It is widely known that there are a disproportionate number of minority children in foster care. Preliminary 2006 information from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) shows that 60% of children waiting to be adopted are minorities, 32% of whom are African Americans. The 1994 Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) was put in place with the long-overdue goal of “preventing discrimination in the placement of children on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” The intent was to place children with adoptive families who could best meet their needs, regardless of ethic or racial background. Fourteen years later the statistics are still distressing, but progress has been made.

The annual AFCARS report reveals a promising trend, indicating that the population in foster homes is beginning to more closely resemble the national population. Statistics from 1998 show that the number of African American children in foster care was 43%, significantly higher than the 32% reported in 2003. There would seem to be a direct correlation between the MEPA ruling and this normalization of the racial makeup in foster homes. Hopefully, strides are being made to support minority children, who much more often enter adulthood never having found a permanent home.

The National Adoption Center recognizes the benefit of finding adoptive parents whose backgrounds children can identify with. To meet that need, we actively engage in the recruitment of families that fit the diverse cultures of waiting children. We also know that matches sometimes transcend ethnic backgrounds and interracial adoption often is a great choice as well. If an interracial placement occurs, agencies should be required to provide additional support to preserve children's racial and cultural connections.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President-Elect Obama

We are heartened by the results of the election yesterday. Regardless of your political affiliation, it was wonderful to see so many take part in the process. We look forward to uniting as a nation through the leadership of President-elect Barack Obama and his Vice-President-elect, Joe Biden. While there are many issues in need of attention, we will work to keep spotlighted those issues which touch the lives of children within the foster care system and those who receive the permanacy of adoption.