Adoption Beat

October 10, 2008

Follow the Money

Filed under: must read — adoptionbeat @ 2:59 pm

“Follow the money” is an injunction to investigative reporters looking for the real story behind the events; it’s too bad that the media so seldom take that to heart when reporting on adoption.

Here is an example of reporting that does take adoption finance into account:

Petula Dvorak of the Washington post explores a somewhat controversial aspect of adoption, subsidies paid to parents who adopt from foster care which, not surprisingly, receive little oversight.

The federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 is another example of well-intentioned legislation that, along with safe-haven laws and sealed records, have been passed into law with the intent of making adoption more attractive, safer or to address non-existent problems in ways that benefit the industry.

AACW, enacted to keep foster children from languishing in a government system, pays state child welfare agencies a bonus for moving children from foster care to permanent adoptive homes. It also provides a source of income to the adoptive families. On the face if it, this sounds like a positive program. But, as adoption reform activists suggest, money is often at the heart of ill-advised practices.

If you have ever known a child who is in foster care, then think about the cause of his/her situation. Here are two examples:

Dennis, now a university professor, was a mixed-race child who was adopted by a couple in New York state. But his adoptive father died prematurely, and the adoptive mother returned him to the agency because she said having a child with a darker skin than her own might adversely affect her chances of remarriage.

April’s mother, who wrestled with drugs, alcohol and sexual excesses, gave birth to four children by four different fathers. April found refuge at the home of her next-door neighbor until the neighbors moved. The situation at home continued to deteriorate until social services removed April and her siblings from her mother’s care. They were parceled out to relatives and foster families. April’s former neighbors stepped up to the plate and offered to make a home for her. Now a physician’s assistant, April was lucky placed with the people who had become her surrogate family and remain with them until after graduation from her post-secondary training. Her older sister, repeating the life her mother lived, now has four children, both white and mixed race, who are in and out of her custody but for whom she collects welfare benefits.

While we have a societal obligation to protect and provide for our most vulnerable members, most will acknowledge that the foster care system produces mixed results at best. Foster children often suffer the effects of physical or emotional abuse by their natural parents or other relatives. Consequently, the financial incentive to move these children into permanent homes with loving parents sounds like the solution.

However, implementing these programs is problematic. Take the situation that prompted Dvorak’s reporting. Law enforcement found the bodies of two children adopted from foster care in Renee Bowman’s freezer. Southern Maryland resident, Bowman, adopted three girls from the District of Columbia. When one of these girls escaped abuse by scrambling out a window, the subsequent investigation found the bodies of one child who starved to death and another who died in a fall.

Bowman continued to receive $2,400 a month under the program because child welfare officials had no way of knowing two of her children were dead. There was no effective oversight. One report even suggests that social workers investigated, and although they did not see the two dead children, concluded that everything was in order.

The $800 per child monthly payment was roughly twice the national average subsidy of $444 because the girls qualified as “special needs” children.

There are thousands of children in foster care and subsidized adoption. Officials maintain that situations like this are the exception rather than the rule. But, without oversight, we don’t really know. And we should.



  1. Thank You Ann, For the email. this is the Truth about what is going on with everybody from the 1980’s. thank you my Friend. peggy ps.any more please feel free to send it

    Comment by peggy — October 10, 2008 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

  2. We had two of our three adotped children as foster care cildren before we adotped them. Yes, there are tremendous problems in foster care including the money foster parnts recieve. BTW, the money does not cover the cost per month of a child living in a middle class family.

    As two of our children are categorized as special needs we recieve the adoption subsidy. I realize that some foster parents and adoptive parents use their subsidy, actually it is the child’s money paid c/o the foster or adoptive parent, for alchohl and drugs or other things not related the child; however, in our case the subsidy provided many “extras” we could not afford to give them without it.

    Comment by Jack — October 10, 2008 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  3. While the law’s intention is admirable, there needs to be much more oversight. Your blog reminded me of a case in a nearby town where a former foster child was abused after adoption. His injuries led to his death. I am also reminded of a foster family in Delaware who very much wanted to adopt the child. They were not concerned about payments. Surprisingly, the law, at that time, prohibited adoption of a foster child in that family. I can, however, support a subsidy if it truly means that the child will be placed in a loving, healthy home, i.e. People who would make excellent parents who may not be financially able to support an extra child or children. I especially support the subsidy for special needs children.

    Comment by Elaine — October 11, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Reply

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