November 1, 1995
Web posted at: 7:35 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Jill Dougherty
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As Congress considers changes in the federal adoption laws, there's concern that some children needing a permanent home will be left aside. At the start of National Adoption Month, both the House and Senate have proposals to help adults interested in private adoption. But critics worry that plans to shift federal funds to the states would hurt families dependent on government-funded adoption programs. And they say a proposed adoption tax credit misses the most critical target.
The proposal to give married couples and single parents a $5,000 tax credit for adoption expenses would be welcomed by couples such as Jennifer and Tim Geipe. After six years of fruitless efforts at fertility treatment, the Columbia, Maryland, couple adopted Katelynn through a private agency at a cost of $6,000. "When she came it was wonderful, an answer to our prayers," said Jennifer Geipe. (859K QuickTime movie)
Now the Geipes are planning to adopt an infant boy, and the adoption tax credit would help make that more affordable. "We don't have a great financial picture now, and if there's going to be tax credits I want to take advantage of them," Tim Geipe said.
The proposed credits for private adoptions would cover lawyers' fees, agency fees and court costs, which usually average $10,000. The benefits are aimed at families making less than $60,000 a year. "This is a pro-family and a pro-child proposal," said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby. Minorities and the poor will benefit most, agrees Bill Pierce of the National Council for Adoption. (128K AIFF sound or 128K WAV sound)
But other child welfare advocates and some Democrats said the tax credit may not help the youngsters who need it most. "Children in the public system ... need to be protected first," said Joe Kroll of the North American Council on Adoptive Children. "Naomi" is one such child. In foster homes since she was three, Naomi (not her real name) is 13 now. "No one wants to adopt teenagers. They want to adopt little babies and little kids," she said. (136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound)
The numbers back her up. Some 50,000 children are adopted yearly in the United States and most are infants. But nearly three-quarters of the children awaiting adoption have "special needs". Some are older. Others have emotional and physical disabilities or are affected by HIV, AIDS or drugs. Some 20,000 children in foster care are available to be adopted but fewer than half are likely to be. Another 50,000 could be free for adoption in the near future.
Washington single-parent Karen Howze, who adopted three "special need" children, said a network of federal assistance providing medical and other help made her family possible. Plans in Congress to repeal some of those programs and turn the money over to the states have her worried. (221K AIFF sound or 221K WAV sound)
Society, too, is faced with a dilemma: Can public policy strike a balance between helping families that want children and helping children who need families?
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