The Adoption Tax Credit Is Flawed, And This Is Why

by Molly Rampe Thomas
Originally Published: 
Molly Rampe Thomas

In D.C., lawmakers are patting themselves on the back, pointing to the last-minute save of the on-again, off-again adoption tax credit as if it somehow demonstrates legislators are supporting families. That through these tax credits, they’re keeping kids out of foster care. Making it possible for loving, deserving families to adopt.

And I think it’s disgusting.

The adoption tax credit isn’t doing what it’s intended to do, and our lawmakers don’t even come close to taking real actions to keep children out of foster care and place them in loving, permanent homes.

The adoption credit was originally a bipartisan idea to encourage families to adopt children out of the foster care system. The reality is, it has not solved the problem of children stuck in the foster care system.

In my home state of Ohio, we have 453 kids and sibling groups waiting to be adopted. Nationwide, there are 100,000 kids waiting. And yet we often hear the somewhat questionable statistic that for every baby put up for adoption, there are 36 couples waiting.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect. Instead of spurring foster care adoptions, the tax credit has eased the admittedly real financial burden of infant adoption, commonly costing tens of thousands of dollars in an often coercive and emotionally fraught system. Parents will wait years for a newborn baby to bring home while tens of thousands of children wait in foster care.

It’s a problem. And while the credit does help those families who pursue adoption out of the foster system, it’s not doing nearly enough, and the resources supporting families adopting outside the traditional closed-adoption-of-an-infant world are insufficient. There are intense social and emotional supports needed to help families who adopt from foster care succeed, and the resources are virtually nonexistent.

A tax credit might offset a small portion of the cost of integrating an adopted older child into a family. There certainly aren’t any tax credits supporting the pregnant person facing the agonizing choice to abort, parent, or put a child up for adoption. For that person, there are far too few resources and far too much dogma, judgment, and bad options.

As the founder of a pro-choice adoption agency, I see it as my responsibility to ensure the pregnant women we serve understand all of their options — adoption, abortion, and parenting — and make the choice that is right for them. The choice that gives them peace in their heart.

What’s even more appalling to me is that in this same tax plan revision, our lawmakers not only considered cutting the limited money that would give living, breathing kids a better chance at finding an adoptive home, but they also attempted to give money to unborn children by making them designated beneficiaries. We aren’t caring for the children already struggling in our systems, yet our lawmakers would hurt foster children’s chances of adoption and in the same pen stroke give financial rights to a fetus.

These cuts aren’t about caring for the American people, about caring for women, about caring for kids, about caring for families. These cuts are about pushing agendas.

The elimination of the adoption credit is just another blatant way of showing that our lawmakers care about the unborn child more than the born child, women, and families.

While Washington argues about the adoption credit, they continue to do nothing to build the social support programs that have been systematically gutted and leave pregnant women without options or resources. They do nothing to provide solid parenting foundations, quality affordable child care, and opportunities for upward mobility for pregnant women. They do nothing to provide the education, understanding, and support the foster care system needs to connect with adoptive families and guide them toward success. And they decimate and dismantle women’s access to abortion.

Our lawmakers may have saved the adoption credit, but it was clear long ago they’d abandoned pregnant women.

So even though I’m the founder of an adoption agency, inspired by my experience adopting my daughter, and a passionate advocate for open adoption, I cannot applaud the House’s amendment or the Senate’s refusal to cut the credit.

If we really want to keep more children out of the foster care system — and truly care for all kids — lawmakers need to increase financial aid and supports to low income citizens, increase living expenses for people wanting to place their children up for adoption, and stop cutting women’s reproductive rights.

Keep the federal adoption credit as is. It’s a needed tool. But it’s a pittance of the financial, emotional, and social support system our most at-risk pregnant women need. And until that support is in place, we all need to continue to demand our lawmakers provide better for our pregnant women.

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