Policy & Practice: Advocacy
April 13, 2007
Representative Paul Condino
PO Box 30014
Beverly Davidson, President
PO Box 2784
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-2784
Dear Representative Condino:
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is the leading research, policy and education organization in its field. It is independent, nonpartisan and derives no income from child placement. Its mission is to improve policies and practices for everyone touched by adoption, especially children. One of our primary goals, therefore, is to assure every child has a safe, loving and permanent family. Research and experience show that for many boys and girls, especially those languishing in foster care, adoption is a critical part of such assurance. Based on this knowledge, we are writing in strong support of HB 4259.
According to the U.S. Children's Bureau, over 100,000 children in foster care are awaiting adoption. In 2007, Michigan has about 6,300 children waiting to be adopted, 41 percent of whom are older than 10. Research demonstrates that the older the waiting children, the less likely they are to be adopted. Indeed, they are more likely to "graduate" from foster care than to ever live in a loving, permanent family.
In Michigan, for example, nearly 80 percent of those who enter foster care at age 12 or older will leave the system without returning to their original homes or being adopted (U.S. Children's Bureau, 2005). The data are all too clear on what awaits them. Children who "age out" of foster care are at great risk for homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, early pregnancy and incarceration. These children need permanent families - not just until they turn 18, but for their lifetimes.
The emotional and social costs to children who never have permanent families are harder to quantify - although we know they are enormous. We can determine, in part, the cost to the taxpayer, however. To put it simply, adoption is much less expensive than foster care. Dr. Richard Barth, one of the pre-eminent researchers in the field, and his colleagues recently released a study that found governments save $35,800 per child for every 100 foster care cases closed due to adoption over the first eight years, compared to the expense of keeping those children in foster care (Barth, Lee, Wildfire & Guo, 2005).
Yet there are too few prospective parents for the thousands of children in foster care who cannot go home. In a recently published study, the Adoption Institute found that gay or lesbian parents provide nurturing, loving homes and that their children fare similarly to children raised by heterosexual parents. They are also committed adoptive parents, and can be a valuable resource for the children at risk of aging out of foster care, as they are more open than others to take on children with special needs. The research showing that gay and lesbian adults can be nurturing adoptive parents comports with the findings of other mainstream organizations (i.e., not ones with gay/lesbian advocacy agendas), including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, among many others.
The adoption of waiting children is less likely if a state does not allow both partners to adopt. HB 4259 is a remedy to this impediment.
Why is second parent adoption so important? Children who are adopted by both people who parent them are eligible for financial support, health insurance, Social Security benefits, inheritance and a host of other protections from both their adoptive parents. Perhaps most important, a child with two acknowledged parents has a heightened level of security and support and, it is essential to point out, the child still has a legal parent if one parent dies or becomes unable to remain a care-giver. In a nutshell, the financial and emotional benefits that come with second parent adoption are invaluable to children.
Thank you for taking this issue so seriously, and for taking the Adoption Institute's input into account as you consider this important step forward for waiting children. By approving HB 4259, you have the opportunity to improve the lives of many, many boys and girls. Again, we strongly urge you to do so.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns, or if we can provide any more information related to this much-needed legislation.
With best wishes,
|Adam Pertman Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org 617-332-8944||Jeanne Howard Research & Policy Director email@example.com 309-438-8503|