Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy
Eliminating Barriers to the Adoption of Children from Foster Care
Kamarck, Elaine C., Mary Eschelbach Hansen, Julie Boatright Wilson, and Jeff Katz. "Eliminating Barriers to the Adoption of Children from Foster Care." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP12-040, September 2012.
For children in foster care who cannot be reunified with their families of origin, there is no
question that adoption is preferable to “aging out”. Moreover, every dollar spent on adoption for
a child from foster care yields three dollars in benefits. Yet, 27,854 youth aged out of foster care
in FY2010, and, for each child who was adopted during the year, two children with a goal of
adoption continued to wait in foster care. Research shows that there are more than enough
families interested in adopting children from foster care, but that only one in 28 people who
contacts a child welfare agency actually adopts a child. Today there are more than 100,000
children waiting in foster care in large part because of barriers in the adoption system that could
be eliminated through changes in policy and practice.
Barriers to adoption from foster care identified by participants in the Executive Session include:
• financial disincentives for creating interstate adoptions;
• lack of standardized information about families seeking to adopt and about children
waiting to be adopted;
• insufficient post-adoption support compared to support for youth aging out; and
• absence of a robust model for creating adoptions, including effective recruitment of
adoptive families; appropriate caseloads, training, and supervision for workers; and
significant youth involvement.
Congress is best-positioned to create incentives to improve and standardize
adoption practice within each state and to facilitate adoptions across state lines.
To increase the number of adoptions, Congress should:
1. Reward both sending and receiving states for creating interstate adoptions. I
2. Establish national standards for home studies and for descriptions of waiting
3. Eliminate long-term foster care as a goal.
4. Emphasize funding for post-adoption services.
5. Encourage development of a robust, comprehensive practice model of adoptions from