I want to thank The Star for featuring Tim Evans' piece about adoption and foster care subsidies in Indiana. The article brings attention to a critical issue -- the need to provide adequate resources and support for families who generously open their homes to vulnerable children ("For love or money?" March 4).
The casual reader might be tempted to look at what Indiana spends on foster or adoption assistance and assume the money is wasteful or extravagant. The reality is that Indiana offers one of the lowest subsidy amounts in the nation. Compared to other states, we're hardly lavishing money onto these families, who do so much for our children.
Foster and adoptive parents generously give up considerable time and resources on the road to caring for kids. There are training courses, licensing fees, criminal history and fingerprint checks, home studies, and the costs of obtaining extra furniture, clothes and food. All of these out-of-pocket expenses are incurred before any state subsidy is ever granted.
Once licensed, foster families can receive monthly per diems to help offset some of the expenses of caring for children (including day care, food, medical treatment, education, mental health services, transportation, after-school activities, entertainment). When you add up the expenses, any subsidy quickly evaporates -- leaving foster families to pick up the rest. No one is getting rich from adopting or fostering children. What a tragedy that the tiny fraction of those who might go into it for the money receives all of the attention.
Our state faces record numbers of children entering the system, and every year more and more foster youth age out without permanent families. Foster youth who reach adulthood without being adopted are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, impoverished, rely on public assistance, and become teen parents. Unfortunately, many families cannot bear the costly process of adoption without some form of financial assistance. Cutting such aid would mean shortchanging vulnerable children who so desperately need a family.
Adoption assistance also offers greater accountability and fiscal responsibility to taxpayers. Consider this: A recent study found that providing foster care to a child for seven years costs roughly $86,100. By contrast, the cost of an adoption with eight years of subsidies was only $65,100. The difference, multiplied by the 52,000 foster children waiting to be adopted nationally, would generate over $1.5 billion in savings.
When the state removes children from the custody of their parents, we become their legal guardians. As a responsible caregiver, Indiana must do everything possible to remove any barriers hindering quality Hoosiers from becoming foster, kinship or adoptive families. Protecting our children begins with supporting those who want to offer safe and stable homes.