Welcome to today’s hearing. I can’t think of a more important, or more bipartisan, topic than promoting adoption. In fact, that’s why we are having this hearing today. This is an area where both parties have worked together to improve outcomes for children, which is what I would like to do whenever possible as Chairman. I know Mr. Doggett agrees with that goal, and I look forward to working with all our Members to work productively toward that end. We won’t always agree, but whether it involves adoption, or data standards, or preventing wasteful spending, there is a lot we can and should do together.
In the ten years from 1987 through 1997, the number of children in foster care rose dramatically, climbing from 300,000 to 537,000. That surge in foster care caseloads is one of the reasons why Congress, led by our current Chairman Dave Camp, passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997. That law was designed to ensure more foster children were quickly adopted when they couldn’t return to live safely with their parents.
The Adoption Incentives program, created as part of that law, was one key measure to encourage more adoptions of children from foster care. In short, it rewards States if they increase the number of children leaving foster care for adoptive homes.
It worked. Since the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, foster care caseloads have fallen dramatically. After peaking at 567,000 in 1999, foster care caseloads have fallen by almost 30 percent. At the same time, adoptions from foster care increased in the late 1990s and remain much higher than before the law’s passage.
Today we will review how the Adoption Incentives program supported these improvements. We will hear directly from adoption experts, including from organizations that have proven they can increase the number of children adopted from foster care. And we will start to consider whether we need to make changes to encourage even more adoptions.
In my view, the Federal government should continue to support efforts to increase adoptions, as there are still over 100,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted. These kids deserve a place to call home. They need someone who will commit to caring for them. And they deserve our best efforts to ensure that they are adopted.
I look forward to the testimony of all of our witnesses today about how we can work together to ensure more children grow up in a safe, loving, and permanent family.