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VFA Submits Written Testimony for House Appropriations for Adoption Opportunities and Adoption Incentives

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

VFA Submits Written Testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

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Adoption & Kinship Inventive Fund - We join with others in the adoption community in asking for a one-time increase to replace a shortfall in the Adoption/Kinship Incentive fund. We ask that you go above the current Administration request of level funding of $38 million by increasing this total to $66 million in 2018

When HHS awarded the annual adoption incentives, the awards were much less than the fifty states had earned.  The awards are based on increased adoptions and kinship placements that took place in federal fiscal year 2014 (FY ’14).  Funds were drawn from FY 2015.  Total FY 15 funding awarded was $18 million despite the appropriations of $38 million.  The $18 million awarded was only 38 percent of what states should have been awarded meaning that the total should have been closer to $45 to $46 million. 

Since the incentive fund was created under the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), HHS has been able to adjust a lack of full funding in one year by taking from the following year’s appropriations.  In the beginning years, Congress would recognize this and provide an extra amount of appropriation that attempted to address both the shortfall as well as the new year’s awards. Congress has stopped appropriating funds in this way and in recent years has been cutting the fund from its high of approximately $43 million to the current total of $38 million.

Thus, despite earning $45 million last year states received $18 million. That shortfall will be made up from the current year awards but it likely means that the new awards released in October of this year are likely to be limited to no more than $10 million.

The Adoption Opportunities Act - VFA requests funding for the Adoption Opportunities Act to $50 million.  This is a restoration and increase in funding level from the total of $39 million in FY 2016.

The Adoption Opportunities program funds grants and contracts to promote adoptions with a particular emphasis on recruitment of minority populations and adoption of older children in foster care.  There are more than 112,000 in the foster care waiting to be adopted. 

As noted by HHS in last year’s budget justification, “…as of September 30, 2015, 24,874 foster children previously photo-listed on the initiative’s website had been reported as placed in permanent, adoptive homes. That number is projected to reach 25,000 by the end of the first quarter of 2016.  Each month during FY 2015, the initiative averaged 4.2 million page views and more than 500,000 daily unique visitors to the AdoptUSKids website, in addition to an average of 1,886 inquiries per month via phone, email, web inquiry and chat regarding adoption of children from foster care, including those who are registered on the site.  In FY 2015 an average of 168 new families per month with approved home studies registered on the website and became active users to search for children who may fit well into their families.  Approximately 4,021 child or sibling group specific inquiries were made each month by registered families to the child’s case manager via the website in FY 2015.  The reach of the campaign is extended through a variety of social media channels, including Facebook (with an average weekly reach of approximately 170,000 people), Twitter, and YouTube.”