Adoption subsidies are perhaps the single most powerful tool by which the child welfare system can encourage adoption and support adoptive families. The federal Adoption Assistance Program was created by Congress in 1980 to ensure that families adopting foster children with special needs could do so without reducing or exhausting their resources. This federal adoption subsidy program entitles all families adopting children from foster care with special needs, who cannot meet their needs, to obtain subsidy support. Federal expenditures for adoption assistance have grown rapidly since the program was created, from less than $400,000 in fiscal year 1981 to $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2002, and are expected to approach $2.5 billion by FY 2008.
Little is know about the factors associated with the receipt and amount of subsidies. Data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) offer an opportunity to examine how states use adoption subsidies to help achieve goals of permanency and well-being for children. Of particular interest to this study are patterns of subsidy receipt, the role of federal support for adoption subsidies under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, and the relationship between adoption subsidies and adoption outcomes, including the rate of adoptions among eligible children and the timeliness of adoption.
The analyses presented in this report explore patterns of subsidy receipt, and how subsidies are related to adoption outcomes such as the rate of adoptions among eligible children and how quickly eligible children are adopted. Questions of interest include the extent and funding of subsidies; the relationship between children's characteristics, foster care experiences, and subsidy receipt and amount; and variations among states in subsidy practice. These analyses use AFCARS data representing all adoptions from foster care during the years FY 1999 to FY 2001, with additional data from the AFCARS foster care file for 2001. Three types of analyses are presented:
- Descriptive analyses of both national trends and variations among states;
- Correlations among state-level measures, examining relationships among state subsidy practice and adoption outcomes; and
- Multivariate analyses addressing the relationship of child, family, and state characteristics to subsidy receipt and subsidy amount.