Adopting in the US

Tougher states rules are removing more and more children from abusive or otherwise unfit parents and swelling the ranks of those in foster care. But that system of providing a haven for a limited time has produced more roadblocks than roads out for those children.

While the 1996 Adoption and Safe Families Act made some improvements, today more than a half million such children remain in foster care, and some 130,000 are waiting to be adopted. Unlike many international adoption cases, American kids needing adoption tend to be older, have siblings, and need to stay together. Sometimes they have other special needs, such as a disability.

Stifling bureaucracy and negative perceptions cause many would-be adopters to reject kids from foster care.

A welcome White House initiative was launched last week to increase public awareness and encourage adoption of children in foster care. An old website – www.AdoptUSKids.org – has been greatly revamped to connect willing families with some of the neediest kids in the US. The site will contain pictures and profiles of some 6,500 children from 46 states who are available for adoption. The effort will be boosted by public-service announcements featuring Laura Bush, the first lady, and actor Bruce Willis.

But the well-intended initiative could use some more teeth, such as allocating more resources to recruit parents, new monies to help subsidize people who adopt special-needs kids, and money to help train more social workers – especially if these new initiatives really take off.

Adam Pertman, author of "Adoption Nation," calls adoption "both a marvel of humanity and a social safety valve." While hundreds of thousands of children overseas continue to need adopting, and should not be forgotten, this new focus on matching children in the US who need love, and a caring family environment with parents willing to provide both, is an example of what government can do to promote private solutions to public problems.

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