Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bee Aware: National Adoption Day

While the entire month of November is dedicated to honor adoption, yesterday November 19, was National Adoption Day. This immensely special day exists to bring awareness about the over 107,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted, and to finalize over 4,000 adoptions from foster care across the United States alone. Over 300 large events took place, with many other individuals celebrating throughout online communities.

Adoption is a key factor to take in to consideration as an expecting parent to a child with a medically complex condition as hydranencephaly, one that is most generally not offered as an option upon diagnosis. Our foundation hopes to make this a clear option, one that outweighs the more often offered option of a medically induced termination of pregnancy, as we navigate this journey that includes a family network of many adoptive parents to children with hydranencephaly. The misconception still exists that these children will not live the quality of life that would prompt a family to adopt them.

Some facts on adoption, from

Costs: Adopting from the U.S. foster care system is generally the least expensive type of adoption, usually involving little or no cost, and states often provide subsidies to adoptive parents. Stepparent and kinship adoptions are often not very costly. Agency and private adoptions can range from $5,000 to $40,000 or more depending on a variety of factors including services provided, travel expenses, birthmother expenses, requirements in the state, and other factors. International adoptions can range from $7,000 to $30,000.

While there may be a small fee required up front, any requirement that all fees be paid immediately following application should raise red flags. When talking with your professional, ask about the payment schedule, and about sliding scale fees if your financial resources are limited.

There are a growing number of resources to help manage the cost of adoption, including tax benefits (some of which apply to public agency adoptions as well), loans, employer benefits, and others."

          ~Adoption Subsidies: "also known as Adoption Assistance Payments (AAP), are   monthly payments made to parents who adopt children with special needs from the U.S. foster care system. The amount is based on the severity of the child's disabilities and is in no way related to the income of the adoptive parents. Subsidy (along with Medicaid coverage for the adoptee until adulthood) is meant to defray some of the costs associated with raising children. It is not meant to reimburse all expenses. It is not income so it is not taxable. It is not meant to take the place of child support after a divorce. It was designed to make adoption more affordable and therefore more feasible for the typical adult or couple. The average base amount nationwide is about $350.00 per month.

In 1980, Congress created the subsidy program (Public Law 96-272) to encourage foster parents and others to adopt waiting children because permanency offers important lifelong and generational benefits to children. This program has been very successful in three ways:

*in helping to reform foster care,
*in encouraging record numbers of adoptions, and
*in saving tax dollars that would have otherwise been spent keeping children in foster care.

          ~Active Duty Military Adoption: you are eligible for reimbursement of expenses up to $2,000 for the adoption of a single child and up to $5,000 per family per year. There is one caveat: The adoption must have been arranged through a source that is authorized by a State to provide adoption placements, if the adoption is supervised by a court under state or local law. Paid after the adoption is finalized, this benefit is not doubled if both parents are in the military.

Fees that can be reimbursed include agency fees, legal fees, placement fees, and medical expenses. Travel expenses were not originally covered when this program was introduced, but they may be covered now.

Military parents can exercise an option to have children that are placed with them covered by their military medical program even before the adoption is finalized. You should apply to the Secretary of your branch of the service for the child to be a "Secretary Designee." If you have questions about this process, contact your commanding officer or The National Military Family Association at: (703) 931-6632.

Under the military’s Program for Persons with Disabilities, military parents may be eligible to receive up to $1,000 a month for disabled or special needs adopted children. The military also has a program called the Exceptional Family Member Program that will ensure that adoptive parents of special needs children are assigned to bases or duty stations that can meet the needs of the child.

         ~Adoption Tax Credit (contact your local IRS office): applies to domestic and international adoptions, but the procedure is not the same. Credit for expenses for international adoptions can be claimed only after finalization; for domestic adoptions, the credit can be applied even if the adoption does not go through.

The full credit can be taken for domestic special needs adoption even when the qualifying expenses don't reach that limit.
The credit of $12,150 is per child, not per year, so even if you claim expenses paid out over more than one year for one adoption, the total credit amount remains $12,150.

Once the primary concern of financing an adoption is addressed, it seems much feasible (to me, upon doing this research) to adopt than originally thought. Add to the difficulty factor, the concept of children awaiting adoption who have medical complexities... seems everyone, when "choosing" a child, would much rather select a healthy baby... and an older special needs child? That just puts them on the road to being purely "un-adoptable."

Again, from

Special Needs Adoption: The term is supposed to refer to conditions or characteristics that make a child difficult to place by the state adoption unit or an adoption agency, some of which have nothing to do with the health or temperament of the child. It has also, however, come to be used alternately with "hard to place," now widely misunderstood. Most agencies consider children and infants who are black or biracial to be children with special needs.

Handicaps: Children with special needs may suffer permanent or temporary disabilities, for example, cerebral palsy or a club foot. If the birthmother was a drug or alcohol abuser, her child may have been affected in utero from drug or alcohol exposure. A baby or child born to a mother with aids and who tests HIV positive at birth is definitely considered a child with special needs.

But the label "special needs" also carries a benefit that may be the reason for the silence of the minority and multiethnic community: "special needs" adoptions are not only usually free but often parents also receive payments from the ADOPTION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (subsidies), as well as MEDICAID for the child, and other benefits.

For demographic and other reasons, and despite 20 years of active efforts to recruit minority adoptive applicants, there are apparently still not enough black families interested in or aware of the need for families of many black and biracial children. As a result, many remain in foster homes until they "age out" in adulthood. Some social workers have strongly suggested that adoptive recruitment efforts in black communities have been woefully inadequate and hypothesize that greater numbers of black families would be interested in adoption if they had information on the need and the children. Other black social workers say the problem is not recruitment efforts, the race of staff or inappropriate requirements.

Transracial Adoption: is a hotly disputed topic in the field of social work today, and some families have sued agencies for violating their civil rights by refusing to allow them to adopt across racial or nationality lines.

Families Who Adopt Children with Special Needs: adopters of children with special needs place a greater emphasis on flexibility, patience and motivation to adopt, while those families who adopted healthy white infants greatly stressed the importance of their spousal relationship; a love of children and the desire for parenthood as their main reasons for wanting to adopt.

Families who adopt children with special needs are frequently older, more educated and married longer than the infant adopters. Many agencies have an upper age limit of about age 45 for infant adopters, but the age limit is relaxed considerably for special needs adopters.

Many families who adopt children with special needs already have children, and this experience is seen as a plus by numerous agencies. In contrast, a large number of adoption agencies who work with infant adoptions restrict their applications to childless couples or couples with only one child. Agency practices probably contributed greatly to this difference.

Single people are usually allowed to apply to adopt American children with special needs, whereas they are often banned from adopting infants. Many singles have successfully adopted and raised children with special needs; others resent being offered only a child whose needs are complex, believing that a single person would have a harder time caring for a child with serious problems than caring for a healthy infant.

In the United States alone, there are currently an estimated 150,000 special needs children awaiting adoption... what an astronomical number, right? Thankfully, The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) has focused more attention on finding homes for children with special needs and making sure they receive the post-adoption services they need. (a huge thank you to then President Bill Clinton!)

Please consider adoption, bee educated on your options. And those parents who have provided homes to our little "bees" with hydranencephaly: you are amazing & THANK YOU for providing the best quality of life possible to a child that the world may have given up on if it hadn't been for you!! 

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