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foster care, adoption, relatives adopting children

New Law Could Aid Families Caring for Young Relatives

November 19, 2008 06:58 AM
by Emily Coakley
A new federal law that aims to make it easier for foster children to live with relatives depends on state funding, which could be problematic in the current economy.

Several Changes to Foster Care Planned

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Thousands of children in foster care across the country stand to benefit from a law signed by President George W. Bush in October, The Washington Post reported.

The law, called the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, allows state and federal money to be used to pay relatives who take permanent custody of foster children. Right now, only relatives that are foster parents get assistance.

The Post interviewed a Roanoke woman, Jessica Ross, who is a foster parent to two of her cousin’s young children. She has to work two jobs to support her family and wants to take permanent custody of the kids.

“You want them to grow up in a normal situation, to be close to family. But it was very hard to support them and my own children as well. This gives us options,” she said.

This change could save states millions of dollars. A pilot study in Illinois saved the state $200 million in 11 years by allowing just 10,000 family placements.

But funding may be scarce as the economic downturn continues to affect many sectors, including local government.

California has asked Congress to help the state deal with the effects of the credit crisis. Phoenix, Atlanta and Philadelphia have asked for a portion of the billions approved for the Troubled Assets Relief Program, according to findingDulcinea.

The new adoption law also means changes for federally recognized Indian tribes, reported Indian Country Today. Starting next year, tribes can apply for money to set up foster care and other related programs.

“In terms of the tribes’ ability to exercise their authority to be more fully involved in the lives of their children and families, Title IV-E access is going to be a very, very important resource,” said David Simmons of the National Indian Child Welfare Association in an interview with Indian Country Today. “Most of the tribal leaders understand the implications and importance of this new law.”

Most tribal leaders Simmons talked to about the opportunity were enthusiastic, the paper reported.


Another change is that states can assist children in foster care until they are 21, instead of the current limit at age 18.

Opinion & Analysis: Easing the burden on family

Cheryl Davis, who is raising two grandchildren who had been in state care, wrote in The Des Moines Register that the new law could make a big difference for children. The payments for guardian relatives would help their family, which is on a fixed income.

“The nest egg we had accumulated for retirement could not stretch far enough to cover the expenses related to clothing, sports activities, music lessons, movies, games, gasoline and tickets to school events,” Davis wrote, adding it makes her and her husband sad to have to deny their grandson “basic things.”

In Kansas, John Poertner, a retired professor of social work, hopes the state will take advantage of the new federal funding to help grandparents and other relative guardians.

“So in this time of bleak economic news there is reason to be hopeful that Kansas will take advantage of this new federal law to bring the Grandparents as Caregivers and Permanent Custodianship programs together,” he wrote on the LJWorld Blog. “Currently about 25% of Kansas foster children are placed with relatives.”

Related Topic: Abandoning children in Nebraska

Dozens of children, mostly teens, have been abandoned under Nebraska’s safe haven law, which allows parents to legally abandon children up to 18 years old. The state’s law is like no other, and the legislature last week opened a special session to amend it. Some parents who took advantage of the law did so because they said they needed the state’s help.

Reference: Law highlights

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