Bill to ensure foster care subsidy for adoptive parents advances

Proposed legislation that would extend financial support to parents who adopt Hoosier children from foster care advanced in the Indiana Senate on Monday, with the bill’s sponsor hoping the bill’s third time will be the charm.

Senate Bill 66, authored by South Bend Democratic Sen. David Niezgodski, would guarantee a minimum subsidy of at least half that provided to parents of children in foster care. The bill unanimously passed the Family and Children Services Committee on Monday and was assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a fiscal study.

The fiscal note with SB 66 indicates that according to 2019 data, the Department of Child Services provides foster parents monthly payments ranging from $626 to $2,094 based on a child’s age and the level of care each child requires. The average monthly adoption subsidy during that time was $575, according to DCS.

Under the proposal, adoptive parents would enter into an agreement with DCS regarding the subsidy, which could not be less than 50% of the subsidy foster parents received.

“Every year, I hear stories of families who struggle to care for their adoptive kids because of the lack of subsidy support provided to them,” Niezgodski said in a statement. “Compassionate families across the state are having to fight months-long legal battles to be able to keep the appropriate subsidies to care for their children. I believe we must do everything possible to provide for our most vulnerable children with loving, safe and secure homes. This starts with making sure that adoptive families consistently have the resources they need to support these kids.”

Niezgodski has offered this legislation in three straight sessions. In 2019, the Senate Family and Children Services Committee also unanimously approved the legislation, but the bill could not get a hearing in Senate Appropriations. However, the language to guarantee adoption subsidies was added to that year’s state budget, only to be removed in the final days of session.

“Adoptive families cannot care for these children on just one or two dollars a day,” Niezgodski said. “This is what I keep hearing from families, and it’s making it hard to convince Hoosiers to want to adopt if they know they may not get the resources to do so. I’m thankful, though, that there is support for this legislation on both sides of the aisle,” he said, thanking co-author Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, for his efforts to advance the bill.

The bill also would bar DCS or courts from considering a prospective adoptive parent’s eligibility for adoption subsidies in determining the parent’s suitability.

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