CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich sent a letter to President George W. Bush today urging him to sign the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The legislation, passed by Congress this week and waiting for the President’s signature, establishes federal policy that replicates several programs proven successful by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). These programs include subsidized guardianship to support relatives as permanent caregivers, adoption assistance to bring stability to children’s lives, and the extension of federal funding to youth in foster care to age 21.
“We know in Illinois that adopted children and children in foster care can see brighter futures with the support of permanent, loving families,” said Governor Blagojevich. “This bipartisan legislation takes approaches proven successful in Illinois nationwide. I urge President Bush to sign this legislation and continue the progress we’ve made in serving our most vulnerable children and families.”
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 provides for:
Extension of Subsidized Guardianship – The program, which currently operates only in certain states (including Illinois) under a federal waiver, will now be available nationwide to provide federal financial support for grandparents and other relatives who become legal guardians of their related children from the child welfare system. Illinois currently has 5,585 children being raised by loving relatives in this program.
Reauthorization and Improvement of Adoption Assistance – The federal funding authorized through this program provides financial support to families who adopt children from the child welfare system. Illinois currently has 32,699 children supported in permanent families in this program.
Supporting Opportunities for Older Youth in Foster Care – This legislation authorizes federal funding to support a successful transition to adulthood for foster youth. Until now, only a handful of states (including Illinois) have provided support and services to youth in foster care until the age of 21. A University of Chicago research study has shown that Illinois foster youth do better in education, employment, and in life because they are supported to age 21. Illinois currently serves and supports 2,545 wards age 18 and older.
In August 2005, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation establishing Illinois as a national model for adoption. The Adoption Reform Act, P.A. 94-0586, created the Biological and Adoptive Parents Bill of Rights; required agencies to disclose policies, fees and any circumstances material to a child’s placement to prospective adoptive parents. Additionally, the legislation put into law that all fees charged by agencies must be reasonable.
The Adoption Reform Act required DCFS to establish and maintain a statewide adoption complaint registry and a toll-free number which the public can use to learn of substantiated licensing violations. Also, by requiring that all child welfare organizations involved in adoption services to become 501(c)(3) organizations in this landmark legislation, Governor Blagojevich was able to bring Illinois to the forefront of protecting children and families from those looking to profit from the adoption process.
In September 2007, Governor Blagojevich signed into law P.A. 95-0601 which allowed grants for financial and educational assistance to children in cases where the adoptive parents have passed away and a new, permanent home has not yet been found by the state.
In August 2007, Governor Blagojevich signed in P.A. 95-0151 into law, which allows for teachers in Illinois to use sick leave for both adoption and adoption placement.
Today, Illinois is widely regarded as a leader in permanency planning. The Congressional Research Quarterly highlighted the state’s accomplishments as setting the “gold standard” for child care. In addition to the 10,000 children moved to permanent guardianship, Illinois has returned 32,000 children to their birth families and found adoptive homes for another 39,000 children. The overall movement of these 81,000 children out of foster care to permanent families has reduced the size of the foster care population in Illinois from over 51,000 children to less than 16,000 today.
The text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. President:
I write today to urge you to sign the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. This bipartisan legislation is an important step forward in the progress of our nation’s adoption and foster care system. Building on innovations proven successful in Illinois, the law will help support loving families, bringing brighter futures to many America’s most vulnerable children.
Foster care and adoption processes present many challenges for states, families and children all across the country, and I am proud that Illinois has helped pioneer solutions, some of which are advanced further by this legislation. Through the Adoption Assistance and Subsidized Guardianship programs supported in this law, we have moved 81,000 children out of foster care into permanent, loving families, and reduced the foster care population from over 51,000 children a decade ago to less than 16,000 today. Through comprehensive services to older foster youth provided for in the Act, we have helped thousands become more productive adults through greater success in education, employment and in life.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 brings these and other innovations to the nation as a whole, and has my enthusiastic support. Foster families, adoptive families and the children they take into their hearts and home will receive stronger support and more effective services because of this legislation. I urge you to sign this important law, to begin a better day for the children and families we all serve.
Rod R. Blagojevich