NO ONE can argue with President Clinton's call to double the number of adoptions of children in foster care over the next six years. Foster care is a necessary respite in many cases, but for too many children, what was meant to be a temporary solution becomes a permanent limbo. The president is right to highlight the need for swifter resolution of cases of children who cannot or hTC should not return to their parents.
In Maryland, foster children who cannot return home now wait an average of 32 months for adoption. That's almost three years -- an eternity for a child -- but at least the wait has gotten significantly shorter in the past decade. Still, plenty of children linger in the system longer than they should. Currently, some 1,450 Maryland foster children are waiting to be adopted.
In announcing his new initiative, President Clinton called attention to the bill he signed earlier this year banning racial preference in adoption, a laudable and overdue move, and providing for a $5,000 tax credit for families who adopt a child. While important, the tax credit won't significantly affect foster care adoptions, since for the majority of foster care kids there are state or federal subsidies available to adopting families.
More important by far is the need for speeding the evaluation of children's needs and the ability of their biological parents to care for them, both physically and emotionally. Financial incentives for families to adopt these children will make little difference if there are not enough case workers to supervise the progress of these cases, enough lawyers to prepare and argue the legal case for terminating parental rights and enough judges to hear these cases. In other words, breaking down the barriers to foster care adoptions will mean improving the system as a whole.
That is not only possible, it is also imperative if foster children who cannot return to their birth parents are to grow up with a home and family they can call their own.
Pub Date: 12/19/96