Every child deserves a loving mother by Sen. Tim Johnson As I sat down last month to write my mom a Mother's Day card, I found myself recalling all the valuable lessons my mom taught me and how influential she continues to be in my daily life. I see my wife Barbara's humor and wisdom reflected in our own children, and I know that they are like thousands of other children in our state who are blessed with a mother who loves and cares for them.
However, approximately 110,000 children nationwide have no mother and are awaiting adoption. According to the South Dakota Department of Social Services, an average of 480 children are adopted by South Dakota families per year. Currently, about 27 kids, with an average age of 7, are waiting for adoption in our state.
Adoption is a rewarding yet often expensive option for many middle-income South Dakotans, and I have helped organize a bipartisan "adoption caucus" in the Senate to try to make adoption a more viable option for loving parents. During the past couple of years, I have supported major improvements to an adoption policy including: family leave legislation that gives parents of adopted children the same time-off rights as those who give birth; legislation that outlaws racial or ethnic discrimination in adoption; and a $5,000 tax credit ($6,000 tax credit for children with special needs) that makes adoption more affordable for middle- and working-class families.
These laws have resulted in an increase of adoptions nationwide from 118,138 in 1990 to an estimated 133,000 last year. Yet there are still close to a half million kids in foster care nationwide, and a large number of those are minorities and kids with special needs. More needs to be done. For too many South Dakotas, adoption is not an option because of the high costs associated with it. By some estimates, an adoption can cost upwards of $25,000 in fees, paperwork and legal assistance. A new South Dakota mom recently wrote me: "While my children are the best investment I have ever made, as a single mom and a South Dakota teacher, the financial part of adoption is a serious concern. It is a shame to let the high costs involved in adoption become a major roadblock to creating 'forever' families."
I couldn't agree more, and specifically, I am leading an effort in Congress to pass the Hope for Children Act that would index the current tax credit for inflation and increase the earnings limit, expanding eligibility for the tax credit. The Hope for Children Act would also make the adoption tax credit a permanent law. The bill has broad, bipartisan support and is currently pending before the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.
In addition, I am working to pass other legislation that extends federal subsidies to all families that adopt special needs children; allows federal employees to receive the same financial assistance for adoption that most large private employers provide; and streamlines the process for foreign adoptions and naturalization of orphans.
As we celebrate this special day with our mothers, grandmothers and wives, we in Congress must remember that we have the ability to help bring children and deserving parents together to create "forever families."