Legislation Aims to Increase Adoptions

Advocates for children are backing a bill introduced by United States Sen. John Chafee (R) of Rhode Island that would overhaul the foster-care system and reward states for adoptions.

"Every child deserves a home," says Jeff Katz, executive director of Ocean State Adoption Resource Exchange.

Mr. Katz spoke last week at a news conference attended by Senator Chafee and officials of other child-advocacy organizations. It was held at the Pawtucket headquarters of the toymaker Hasbro Inc., which has been active in children's issues.

Katz and the others endorsed the bill that would give states $2,000 bonuses for every adoption completed and $4,000 for every adoption of a special-needs child. Attempting to get children out of abusive homes, the measure also would remove a requirement that states try to reunite families in all cases.

Chafee's bipartisan legislation would spend $2.4 billion over five years to offer money and Medicaid coverage to more families who adopt. Under current law, only children whose biological parents are poor are eligible for this federal aid.

Most adoptive children spend three years moving from home to home before being adopted.

Katz called the bill the "most significant child-welfare reform legislation in a generation." It requires criminal-records checks for all foster and adoptive parents and speeds the adoption process for children victimized by abuse or whose parents have died or were murdered.

The legislation is based in part on a Rhode Island adoption law passed in 1993. He said it likely will be approved by the Senate before the end of the year.

An adoption bill also has cleared the House, minus the $2.4 billion in new spending.

"Each passing day we do not act to bring hope and relief to abused and neglected children is a dark day for Congress and the nation," Chafee said.

Other groups represented at the news conference were the state Office of the Child Advocate, the state Division for Children, Youth and Families, and the Children's Friend and Service.

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