The controversy over state adoptions has recently been highlighted by the news that the Hart family of Washington likely received over $240k in state subsidies for their adoptions of the six Texas children involved in the tragic accident that took the lives of at least three of them (plus the two adoptive mothers.)
It’s no secret that adopting from the State (ie., taking permanent placement of children who have been involuntarily removed from their biological parents and kept in state foster care) is far less costly than private agency adoptions. In a state adoption, the taxpayers subsidize the adoption costs, so that the adopting parents usually pay little more than a portion of the normal fees for homestudy services and legal costs– if that.
Ever Heard of Getting Paid to Adopt?
What is less well-known, though, is that in state adoptions, the adoptive parents generally receive some amount of federal subsidy money per child administered by the state in which the child was in foster care, as something of a “rebate” to help the adoptive family with costs of adopting that child. These subsidies vary (often in accordance with the child’s needs) but can range from a nonrecurrent (one-time) subsidy of $1200 to a recurrent (monthly) adoption assistance payment of $400 or more per child; adoptees who were foster kids are also often eligible for continued Medicaid coverage and state college tuition.
State adoption programs also receive federal funding incentives based on the numbers of foster care children being moved into permanent placements (ie., adoption) so it stands to reason that states like Texas (where there are horrifying numbers of children warehoused in state foster care) are highly motivated to consider adoptive homes outside the state, even those that (like the Harts) may be less traditional family structures.
The child abuse allegations involving the Hart family have been well-documented in the media lately, and it is likely that the State of Texas will be called to account for its decisions to place all six children in the home of two women who ultimately appear to have been culpable for those children’s tragic deaths last month in California.
The question remains, however. Are state adoptions in most children’s best interests?
The Public Adoption System
With more than 400,000 American children in state foster care (and 1 in 4 awaiting adoption,) the public child welfare system is bursting at the seams.
AFCARS estimates that a child enters the child welfare system every 120 seconds; there are more boys than girls, and the median age is 7.8 years. A disproportionate number are of African-American descent, and the majority of children in state foster care are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Family reunification is most often the system’s stated goal, yet there are far more children in need of adoption than there are available adopters, meaning the majority of foster kids wait years to be adopted, and a startling number “age out” of the system each year without ever having been adopted. In 2015, 50k American children were adopted out through the public adoption system, making state adoptions the largest source of adoptable children in the United States; the sad reality, however, is that there are far more American families waiting to adopt newborns in the private adoption system.
This, friends, constitutes a child welfare crisis of epic proportions. It’s not limited to Texas, of course, but everything being bigger and better in the Lone Star State, it is clear there is a huge problem in need of fixing here.
The Donaldson Adoption Institute shared a scathing report in 2017 examining what was referred to as “the broken foster care system in Texas.” According to that report, the State contracts out 95% of its placements to private foster care agencies nowadays; sadly, however, foster care fatalities seem to have only risen as a result. As of April 2018, briefs have been filed in the appeal of the District Court’s Order to the Fifth Circuit by the defendants in M.D. v. Abbott, a federal class action suit being brought on behalf of Texas foster children.
In the 80s, the State of Texas lost a class action lawsuit for wrongful adoption that was detailed by reporter Jan Jarboe in Texas Monthly. The challenges that multiple Texas families suffered in attempting to parent adopted children with undisclosed trauma has resulted in changes in the way that Texas adoption professionals prepare adopting families, yet clearly, problems still remain where the state adoptions system is concerned. (More recent lawsuits such as this one and this one are proof of this.)
It’s Going to Take Everyone to Fix This One
Lest it seem that our intent is to pile on the state adoptions system, let us make it clear: the State adoptions have saved countless children who might otherwise have withered away in abusive homes and/or languished in state foster homes forever. A number of Abrazo’s families have successfully adopted their Abrazokids’ birthsiblings through state adoptions, and we are grateful for the State’s regard for the importance of honoring birthsibling connections even after adoption.
Despite the well-reported statistics of budget problems and staff turnover, we acknowledge that those who labor in child welfare on the state payroll are true heroes in the trenches, and no one private organization or entity could possibly accommodate the numbers of needy children the State serves each year.
That said, however, we believe it is the duty of every citizen (in Texas and beyond) to advocate for state adoptions and to help address the needs of the tens of thousands of voiceless children in state foster care. This is why Abrazo routinely advocates for state adoption programs such as the Heart Galleries, and why we have the utmost respect for CASA For Children. And most importantly, if you are interested in adopting a child or children through the state, you can find the information to get started right here: adopt through the State.
State adoptions change lives, and there’s no time like the present to start making that happen for a child or sibling group in desperate need.