With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Q: Why is adoption a public policy concern?
A: The family is the foundation of American society. For millions of Americans, the season of Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to count our blessings and give thanks for hearth and home. The safety, stability and security of a permanent, loving home reinforces for the next generation a strong foundation of support to last a lifetime. Growing up in a caring family imparts a sense of belonging and acceptance. Surviving sibling rivalry, pitching in to help with household chores and meeting parental expectations arguably shape impressionable kids to learn self-discipline, take personal responsibility and step up to lead productive lives as contributing members of one’s family and society. Children who grow up in a forever family have the immeasurable benefit of a nurturing environment that teaches kids to dream big, step out of their comfort zone to take risks and work hard to reach their potential. Consider what happens for millions of families across Iowa every day. Moms and dads get their kids off to school, go to work, scramble with evening activities and finally get to bed to wake up and do it all over again. Some days are more overwhelming than others. But close-knit, loving families wouldn’t trade their lives together for anything in the world. That sense of belonging is what foster and orphaned kids dream to find. Loving parents provide so much more than food, clothing and shelter. They set boundaries, help with homework, celebrate joys and soothe setbacks. Strong families make America strong. That’s why public policies that promote strong families rest squarely in the national interest. Permanent, loving homes equip the next generation with the tools for self-sufficiency, to go out and succeed in the workforce, volunteer in service to others, join the ranks of the military or pursue public service. Although it can’t guarantee happiness and prosperity, the prospects of raising the next generation to embrace the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are much brighter for children who are able to count a forever family among their year-round blessings at the Thanksgiving table.
Q: How many kids in America go to bed each night without a permanent place to call home?
A: On any given day, more than 400,000 children are living in foster care. About one-quarter of these kids wait with uncertainty for an adoptive family. So many of these children are victims of trauma, abuse or neglect. The temporary, transitional arrangement of foster care just doesn’t replace the stability and security of a forever family. In fact, last year 23,000 foster kids aged out of the system without permanent adoption. Just like that, tens of thousands of young people start adulthood without a permanent family support system. Earlier this year, I introduced legislation that builds on my earlier work to help foster youth up to age 21 qualify for federal resources distributed through the states. For the more than 20 states that have taken up this option, my bipartisan bill would bump eligibility up to age 23 to extend services that give these young adults a stronger foothold to succeed. These programs offer transitional assistance that promotes self-sufficiency. As co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, I work year-round to bring people together at the policymaking tables to help make a difference for foster youth, such as identifying barriers to financial independence, higher education, job training and housing. Listening to the ideas directly from foster families, court and welfare advocates and those who have lived and are living in the foster care system is the best way to identify and solve problems. In May, we convened a panel on kinship care to learn more about the financial strain and challenges that grandparents or other relatives face who take kids in and keep them out of the foster care system. Kinship care saves taxpayers billions of dollars each year and keeps kids out of group homes. In October, I also co-hosted a discussion on Capitol Hill to learn more about Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in the foster care system.
Q: What is Congress doing to promote adoption?
A: Every parent in America knows that raising children is expensive. Easing the burden for adoptive parents to afford costly adoption expenses builds on the nation’s interest to support strong families. I championed the expansion of the federal adoption tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000 in 2001 that is now permanent law and indexed to inflation. November is National Adoption Month. This month I will conduct a Judiciary Committee hearing to celebrate the positive impact that adoption brings to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The committee also will examine specific policies that pertain to international adoptions. A father from Spencer, Iowa, will testify about his family’s experiences in Haiti. The family has nine children; the youngest four are adopted, two from foster care and two from overseas. The father will speak about his family’s work to promote adoptions of orphaned children. Adoption shines hope where poverty, family dysfunction or tragedy have brought darkness, despair and desolation to innocent children, whether in our hometown communities or half-way around the world. As a society, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who are in a position to open their hearts and homes to a child in need.