Today, the President will issue a new directive to the Department of
Health and Human Services to expand the use of the Internet as a
tool to find homes for children waiting to be adopted from foster
care. The President will make the announcement with the First Lady
at a White House ceremony marking National Adoption Month and celebrating
new adoptions in the District of Columbia.
Creating an Internet Registry to Meet the President's Goals for Adoption.
In 1996, President Clinton set a goal of doubling, by the year 2002, adoptions
and other permanent placements from the public child welfare system. Since
then, adoptions have increased; from 1996 to 1997 alone, adoptions increased
by over 10 percent, from 28,000 to 31,000. Today, the President is directing
the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a plan to
expand use of the Internet to share information about children who are
legally free for adoption in order to shorten the time needed to find
them adoptive families. HHS estimates that approximately 100,000 children
in our nation's foster care system cannot return to their birth families
and need families to adopt them. An effective national registry will help
to break down geographic barriers to adoption and assist in meeting the
President's adoption goal. HHS Secretary Donna Shalala will report to
the President within 60 days on a plan to work with the States and other
leaders to carry out this effort.
Building on a Strong Record. Today's announcement builds on a
deep commitment by the President, the First Lady, and the Administration
to facilitate adoptions and improve the child welfare system. Since taking
office, President Clinton has championed efforts to make foster care work
better for the children it serves, to find and assist adoptive families,
and to break down barriers, including high adoption costs and complex
Achieving Landmark Legislative Reform. On November 19, 1997, the
President signed the Adoption and Safe Families Act, reforming our nation's
child welfare system and making it clear that the health and safety of
children must be the paramount concerns of state child welfare services.
This landmark legislation was based in large part on the recommendations
of the Clinton Administration's Adoption 2002 report, which the
President requested by executive memorandum on December 14, 1996, to meet
his goals of doubling adoptions and permanent placements by the year 2002
and moving children more quickly from foster care to permanent homes.
The Act tightened time frames for making permanent placement decisions
for children, and ensured health insurance coverage for all special needs
children in subsidized adoptions. Also, it created new financial incentives
for States to increase adoptions, and continued funding for services to
keep families together when it is appropriate and safe.
Making Adoption Affordable for Families. In 1996, President Clinton
signed into law the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, which provides
a $5,000 tax credit to families adopting children, and a $6,000 tax credit
for families adopting children with special needs. This provision has
alleviated a significant barrier to adoption, helping middle class families
for whom adoption may be prohibitively expensive and making it easier
for families to adopt children with special needs. Since President Clinton
took office, the number of children with special needs who were adopted
with Federal adoption assistance has risen by over 60 percent. In the
Balanced Budget Act of 1997, President Clinton ensured more support for
families who adopt children with the $500 per-child tax credit.
Giving States Flexibility and Support. To test innovative strategies
to improve State child welfare systems, the Clinton Administration has
granted waivers to 18 States, giving them more flexibility in tailoring
services to meet the needs of children and families. In addition, the
Administration has provided States with enhanced technical support and
helped improve court operations. The President secured $10 million in
FY 1999 in new funds to support State efforts to implement the new adoption
law, and has, through the Adoption Opportunities program, supported State
and local innovative demonstration projects to promote adoption, provide
post-adoptive services, and build new public-private partnerships. To
prevent children from entering foster care in the first place, in 1993
the Clinton Administration enacted and secured federal funding for the
Family Preservation and Support Program to help States, local governments,
and service providers develop effective programs to serve children and
families at risk.
Breaking Down Racial and Ethnic Barriers to Adoption. New inter-ethnic
adoption provisions, passed as a part of the Small Business Job Protection
Act of 1996, ensure that the adoption process is free from discrimination
and delays on the basis of race, culture and ethnicity by strengthening
the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act which the President signed in 1994.
Providing Supports for Child Protection and Adoption. In 1993,
President Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act, enabling
parents to take time off to adopt a child without losing their jobs or
health insurance. In addition, the welfare reform legislation signed by
the President maintained the guarantee of child protection and adoption,
and did not reduce funds for child welfare, child abuse, and foster care
and adoption services.