Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I stand here today in support of H.R. 1432, ``Supporting the Goals and Ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by Promoting National Awareness of Adoption and the Children in Foster Care Awaiting Families, Celebrating Children and Families Involved in Adoption, Recognizing Current Programs and Efforts Designed to Promote Adoption, and Encouraging People in the United States to Seek Improved Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being for All
Children'' introduced by Congressman PORTER.
The fundamental purpose of adoption is to serve the best interests of children. It does so by providing loving, responsible, and legally permanent parents when their biological parents cannot or will not parent them. Serving the best interests of children should be paramount in deciding all issues of adoption policy and practice.
Adoption is healthy, satisfying, and good for children, not an enduring challenge to identity and wholeness. The children may have additional questions and curiosities to sort out, but adoption is not a psychological burden or pathology as some theorists treat it. Adoption is the way one joined one's family, not a defining characteristic or lifelong process. Persons adopted as infants grow up as healthy and productive as people raised in their biological families. To the extent there can be a
greater risk of emotional or behavioral problems for children adopted out of foster care at later ages, the correlation is not the result of being adopted, but rather of difficulties experienced prior to adoption, such as neglect or abuse. The vast majority of foster children make the transition into their adoptive families and grow up very successfully.
Today, in the United States there are 500,000 children in the foster care system and of those children, there are 129,000 waiting for families to adopt them. The number of youth who ``age out'' of the foster care system by reaching adulthood without being placed in a permanent home has increased by more than 58 percent since 1998, as nearly 27,000 foster youth ``aged out'' of foster care during 2007 which is appalling and unacceptable. In addition, 3 in 10 people in the United States have considered
adoption; a majority of them have misconceptions about the process of adopting children from foster care. Many Americans, approximately 45 percent believe that children enter the foster care system because of juvenile delinquency. The reality of the matter is that the vast majority of children in the foster care system were victims of neglect, abandonment, or abuse. Furthermore, almost half of the American population believes that foster care adoption
is expensive and are not aware of the fact that there is no substantial cost for adopting children from foster care. Moreover, financial support in the form of an adoption assistance subsidy is available to adoptive families of eligible children adopted from foster care and continues after the adoption is finalized until the child is 18, so that income will not be a barrier to becoming a parent to a foster child who needs to belong to a family.
Passing H.R. 1432 is essential for Congress to demonstrate their support for placing children in safe and positive family environments. The first National Adoption Day was in the year 2000; since then, 20,000 children have joined families during National Adoption Day, and in 2006, adoptions were finalized for over 3,300 children through more than 250 National Adoption Day events in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
We must continue to take stride to reach out and do our best to encourage safe, positive environment for the children of the United States. This resolution will enhance the support for successful adoptions and their support for National Adoption Month in November. When orphaned children are placed in a positive, encouraging, and permanent family environment, they are in a situation where they can grow and experience life in a non-threatening way. Adoption is something that benefits the entire
Nation as our children are given places where they can feel secure.
I firmly believe that we must pass this legislation to demonstrate our support for Adoption and National Adoption month. This legislation will enable us to promote healthy and safe adoptions and celebrate the successful adoptions that ensure the well-being of children.
Mr. PORTER. Madam Speaker, I am here today as an honored Member of the United States Congress, and I appreciate, Madam Speaker, your leadership and that of our chairman and our ranking member on an issue I think is very important to every family in this great country, but most important for those families that are trying to adopt a child or those in foster care.
Today, we're recognizing National Adoption Day, which is November 15, 2008. It's for continued awareness of adoption and foster issues.
Madam Speaker, can you imagine that there are children today sitting in a living room somewhere across America, possibly watching television, maybe reading a book or playing cards with their friends or another sibling. But imagine if you're that child and a car pulls up in front of your house, and out of it comes one or two individuals that come and knock at your door and tell you that you have to move. You may have been there for a week. You may have been there for a month. You may have been
there for a year with this particular foster family. Imagine the pain of that child, realizing that two strangers are coming to the door to take them to another place to reside.
Now, most children in our country are blessed they don't face that particular challenge. Again, can you imagine if that same child then is removed from that home and moved to another home, without even a medical record, they may have to have additional inoculation, they may not have their glasses, they may not have all their personal belongings.
Madam Speaker, this is why we are recognizing Adoption Day and recognizing foster families across the country, because of the important role that they play in the well-being of our children.
Currently, there are 500,000 children in the foster care system around the United States, and there's 130,000 children just waiting for adoption. At firsthand knowledge, in the State of Nevada, we have about 4,000 children a year that enter into the foster care [Page: H8320]
system, and last year, many of those children were blessed to find a home; 444 children were adopted.
I have a family that I recognize this week. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption has provided for us as Members to recognize individuals for their help in fostering homes and creating adoptions, and that's Scott and Kathleen Greenberg of Las Vegas, Nevada. They are proud parents of a 15-month-old son, Evan.
They, of course, found it rewarding but also challenging because it took close to 5 years for this loving family to be able to adopt a child. They started in Tennessee. They then worked through Georgia, through different adoption agencies. They now are working through Nevada, but it took 5 years, and each time they had to start over. They had challenges of arranged adoptions; they had challenges of the public system.
Madam Speaker, the reason we're here today is to encourage families to adopt these children, to be patient, but also, the legislation, with the leadership of our chairman and our ranking member, should make it easier now for families like the Greenbergs to adopt children.
In Nevada, I've worked closely with the foster care program, and I think, like most of us, our children keep coming back no matter what age, but for foster kids, at the age of 18, as they move on from the foster care system, many of them do not have a home to come back to. So in the Nevada legislature we passed legislation to create a program for foster children between the ages of 18 and 21, and we created a fund to help these children with education, with training, with housing, with health
care. It's funded through a copying of documents in the county of Clark, and we're raising about $1 million a year right now to help these children in transition.
Madam Speaker, I'm here today to ask not only for our colleagues to support this legislation, but in our own districts across the country, remind these moms and dads and these individuals that want to adopt children that we want to make it as easy and safe and a wonderful experience that it can be, and that's why we're recognizing this program today.
My great appreciation goes out to Scott and Kathleen Greenberg as the proud parents and to all those other families in Nevada that are part of the foster program, to all the professionals across the country that are working hard to make sure that our children have safe homes.
Today, I ask for your support and that of the rest of this body in supporting our resolution which recognizes National Adoption Day for November 15, 2008.
Mr. WELLER of Illinois. Madam Speaker, taking the lead of my chairman, I will close on this important resolution, but before I move to that, I have two speakers on our side who want to address this resolution which has been authored by my friend Jon Porter of Nevada, who's a strong advocate for adoption and foster children, while serving on the Ways and Means Committee, and I commend him for taking the lead on the National Adoption Month resolution that's before us.
With that, Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey).
Mr. GINGREY. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Illinois for yielding.
As a proud member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 1432. This important resolution recognizes the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by promoting and raising national awareness of adoption and children in foster care, as my colleague from Nevada was just explaining. I commend him, the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Porter), for working in a bipartisan matter to bring this important resolution to the floor,
a resolution that celebrates the children and the families involved in adoption, as well as the current programs and efforts designed to promote adoption.
As was said by my colleague in Illinois, I was an OB/GYN physician for nearly 30 years before coming to the Congress back in 2003, and I am especially passionate, Madam Speaker, about protecting children and their right to life by encouraging adoption.
Madam Speaker, adoption brings joy to many loving families who cannot have children of their own or who simply wish to welcome even more children into their homes and into their hearts. Both National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month, which will be recognized on November 15 and, indeed, throughout the entire month of November, raise awareness nationally for the more than 129,000 children who are currently in foster care and looking, almost begging, for those permanent homes.
I wholeheartedly believe that raising awareness for adoption, as this resolution does so well, will help place more children in those loving homes. However, I believe that we should spend more than just 1 day, or even 1 month, during the year raising awareness on this issue. Both children and parents greatly benefit from adoption, and I want to applaud all individuals in my home State of Georgia and across this country who work so tirelessly to bring joy to these families who sometimes have very
Madam Speaker, I want to urge all my colleagues, and I'm sure they will, to support H. Res. 1432.
Mr. McDERMOTT. Madam Speaker, far too many of our Nation's most vulnerable children long for nothing more than a safe and permanent place to call home.
As the de facto parents of foster children, it's our responsibility to ensure that each child who is unable to safely return home to their biological parents has the ability to achieve permanency through adoption. Sadly, too many children are languishing in the foster care system for far too long as they wait to be adopted.
There are currently 129,000 children who are waiting to be adopted out of foster care. These children, on average, will have to wait nearly two-and-a-half years in the foster care system before they are adopted by the family. A minute can be a lifetime in the eyes of a child. Imagine how a child feels as they wait nearly two-and-a-half years for a family to pick them.
Representative Weller and I introduced bipartisan legislation, which just passed the House, which would provide a variety of policy initiatives aimed at increasing the number of children who are adopted from the foster care system. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act extends, expands, and improves the Adoption Incentives Program. This successful program provides financial bonuses to States that increase the number of children adopted out of foster care.
I have to add that, sort of parenthetically, I started the subsidized adoption program in the Washington State legislature in 1971. There has been a very uneven spread of that concept across the States in this United States. So it's important that we at the Federal level set the standard and say to States, here's some money if you will think about doing subsidized adoptions for these kids.
Since the inception of this program, nearly 440,000 children have been adopted out of the foster care system.
The bill also would provide additional incentives for States to continue to increase the number of children who leave the foster care system for permanency through adoption or through guardianship placement with a grandparent or a relative caregiver.
Additionally, the legislation would provide adoption subsidy assistance to all special-needs kids--these are the ones that are the hardest to get adopted--rather than those children whose birth parents were eligible for welfare under rules that were in place in 1996.
The bill expands Federal adoption assistance by delinking eligibility for assistance from the now defunct AFDC program and by phasing in adoption subsidy to children by their age and their length of time in foster care.
And finally, the legislation would provide direct Federal adoption assistance to tribal governments who run their own child welfare programs. Tribal governments would be able to access the same service that is now available to the States. Such services will allow tribal governments to increase the number of Native American children that are adopted out of the tribal foster care systems.
The month of November marks National Adoption Month, and that's what this resolution is really all about. [Page: H8321]
As we celebrate the countless families who have opened their homes and their hearts to children who are in need of a home, I ask my colleagues to join us in supporting the goals and the ideals of National Adoption Month.
Every child deserves nothing less than a safe and loving place to call home. By working together in a bipartisan fashion, we can do our part to ensure permanency and success for all the children.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GINGREY. I mean, these things might cause some harm, but how do we know that eventually we might create a country of alcoholics by burning all of this ethanol in our automobiles? People today are starving to death because they don't have jobs, and I think that's the first priority.
Let's get this economy back on track, and let's get a decent energy bill and do it right now.
Mr. WELLER of Illinois. Madam Speaker, I have no additional speakers, so I will take this opportunity to close.
Madam Speaker, I rise today in favor of this resolution authored by my friend, Jon Porter, who is a strong advocate for adoption and foster children while serving on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Of course this resolution promotes awareness of adoption and of the children in foster care awaiting loving, adoptive families. I want to recognize all of those parents who have opened their hearts and homes to provide a loving foster home or adopted home for children.
In my home State of Illinois, 1,740 children were adopted from foster care in 2006. Nationwide, 51,000 children moved from foster care to adoption this past year. However, with nearly 500,000 children in the foster care system and approximately 130,000 of these children waiting for a family to adopt them, we have much more work to do.
That's why I'm so pleased that this House is ready to pass this resolution marking National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month, but it's also paired with the important bipartisan legislation this House just considered and just voted unanimously to approve which provides greater incentives to provide loving homes to children in need of adoption as well as foster children in need of a loving home. Again, I want to commend my colleagues for that bipartisan effort.
I urge all Members to support this resolution, to work with the many dedicated faith-based and other groups in their districts who promote adoption, not only in November but every month of the year. There can be no greater gift to a child who has been removed from his or her own parents than to find new, loving, adoptive parents who want to care for him or her as their own.
Madam Speaker, I urge bipartisan support for this important resolution offered by my friend and colleague, Jon Porter of Nevada.
I yield back the balance of my time.