Monday, October 29, 2012

Should the Adoption Tax Credit be Renewed?

At the New York Times Room for Debate page, a discussion of the adoption tax credit, pro and con.  The MOST AMAZING thing is that a birth mother and two adoptees are included in the debate!  Here's a sample of the debate:
Children’s lives depend on the renewal of the adoption tax credit. Most adoptive families need it in order to afford adoption, which costs an average of $30,000. Most of our applicants at Helpusadopt.org spend $30,000 to $50,000, and sometimes more depending on the circumstances and travel involved.

Many American families seeking to build their families through adoption can provide for a child on a day-to-day basis but cannot pay these fees in full and up front. So these large costs present insurmountable financial obstacles.

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The Adoption Tax Credit originated mainly as an incentive to find families for special needs children who needed homes. (At the time it was nonrefundable, meaning it would only offset any taxes owed, but would not apply to families with too little income for a tax liability.) Lobbyists from the adoption industry pushed to expand the credit.

This increased the demand for adoptable children and adoption agencies responded by finding more mothers at risk to increase their own profits. Historically, as the adoption tax credit went up, agencies followed suit and raised their fees as well.

For a mother facing relinquishment, that same credit could very well be the bit of certainty she needs to parent her own baby. She would know how to pay off medical bills, or pay for day care, or take time off from work to enjoy her child.

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The adoption tax credit should not only be renewed, but Congress should once again allow it to be refundable – available even if an adoptive family doesn’t have an income tax liability to apply against -- as it was in 2010 and 2011.

A refundable credit would ensure that more families of modest means can provide homes to vulnerable children. When children are adopted from foster care the credit can help care for children with special needs, and keep brothers and sisters together. A 2007 study showed that families who adopt from foster care have, on average, lower incomes than other adoptive families.

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Unless the tax credit is refundable, many children would remain in expensive foster care. Analysis has shown that each adoption from foster care saves the government up to $235,000, so legislation encouraging adoption from foster care — like a refundable adoption tax credit — can both help vulnerable children and save taxpayers money.

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The original intent of the adoption tax credit was to help families adopt through foster care, because, as Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said, those parents “are of lower income than those adopting with an agency or internationally.”

But extending the tax credit to families who wish to adopt internationally, in 2001, was a misplacement of resources and effort. It benefits American families, often upper middle class and white, but not struggling families overseas.

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Many children adopted internationally, said Mary Martin Mason of the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network, have post-traumatic stress disorder or fetal alcohol syndrome, “as well as traumatic orphanage experiences that are overwhelming to parents who try to parent with traditional techniques. These children are in jeopardy of adoption dissolutions if their families can’t find adoption-competent therapists. Funding post-adoption supportive services such as therapists for adoptive families is truly needed.”

Allowing the adoption tax credit to cover international adoptions only adds to this problem.

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As an adoptee who’s just begun to learn about my birth family, I can honestly say adoption saved my life. If my biological mother had raised me after I was born, or if I grew up in foster care, I cannot imagine where my life would be.

There are more than 100,000 children in foster care. They can live in three to as many as 12 different homes before they age out of the system. When they do age out, they have no parent’s arms to run to when life has the best of them. They have no place for guidance, financial assistance in case of an emergency or help in fulfilling their dreams. Just 2 percent of foster children earn a bachelor's degree or higher, and studies have shown that most prison inmates have been in foster care at some point in their lives.

These children deserve and need a place to call home, but the high cost of adoption deters many families from considering it. The adoption tax credit is one of the most important resources for them.

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 Please comment on the New York Times site, and whatever your opinion, please compliment them for including multiple voices not usually included in these debates.  This is really a HUGE DEAL!

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