TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
For more than 25 years, as an advocate and an attorney, I have worked
to address the challenges of foster care and adoption. I've represented foster
children and their prospective parents in court, and I've sought changes in
laws that discourage adoptions.
I've listened to social workers, judges, police officers and parents
frustrated by the red tape that so often keeps them from sharing their lives
with the children who badly need their love. And I've listened to the children
themselves -- children who have spent the precious years of their childhoods
feeling alone and unloved, moving from home to home.
Since my husband was elected, we have worked together to devise a
strategy to reform the foster care system in this country. Giving every child
the chance to live in a stable and secure environment -- to have a permanent
and loving home -- has been at the heart of our efforts.
The first bill my husband signed into law was the Family and Medical
Leave Act, which helps new parents, including adoptive parents, carve out the
time they need to care for their new children. The President also signed and
strengthened the Multiethnic Placement Act, which put an end to racial
discrimination in adoption.
We have made adoptions more affordable, putting in place tax credits
for new adoptive families. And we're taking steps to use the Internet more
effectively to help match waiting children with loving homes.
In 1996, we set an ambitious national goal -- to double the number of
children adopted annually, from 28,000 to 56,000, by the year 2002. In order to
meet this goal, we worked with members of Congress to pass bipartisan
legislation that dramatically reduced the amount of time children spend in
foster care. Under this bill, for example, no child waits longer than 12 months
-- down from 18 months -- before a court considers permanent placement. The
Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 also removed barriers to adoption, and
for the first time, provided financial incentives to encourage states to
increase the number of children adopted each year.
Last week, we were pleased to receive a report from the Department of
Health and Human Services indicating that our strategy -- and these laws -- are
working. For the first time since the foster care program was created 20 years
ago, the number of adoptions from the system has risen dramatically. In fact,
since 1996, the total number of adoptions has risen 29 percent. Last week, the
President awarded adoption incentive bonuses, totaling $20 million, to 35
states -- including Illinois, where placements more than doubled -- for their
But there's more we need to do.
Under current law, foster children who turn 18 are forced to leave the
system, without the support they might need to make the transition to
independence. With broad bipartisan support, the House of Representatives has
passed a bill that would allow these young people to remain on Medicaid until
the age of 21, and give them extra help in finishing high school, going to
college, and finding work and a place to live. It's time for the Senate to pass
a companion bill for the President to sign.
Every time I need inspiration for our fight to strengthen and increase
adoption in America, I think of Deanna Collins. Four years ago, with her eyes
downcast and her shoulders slumped forward, Deanna stood at a podium in the
East Room of the White House. In a quiet voice, she told the audience about her
dream of living in a place she could call home, with a room of her own, and a
family she could love.
Not long after that visit, Deanna's dream came true, and it's been my
privilege to watch as adoption has transformed her life. With the love of her
parents and the confidence that comes from knowing she will always have a place
to call home, she is thriving. A senior in high school, she plans to go to
college next year and major in social work.
I think of Sue and Hector Badeau, who have adopted 22 children. I think
of Virginia Williams who, many years ago, opened her heart and her home to a
3-year-old boy who had been declared unadoptable and was institutionalized by
his state. Today, that boy is the mayor of Washington, D.C., Anthony Williams.
Finally, I think of Dawn Keane, who with her husband, Steve, adopted
two children last May. Last week at the White House, she said, "Families who
have adopted know that these children are special gifts from God, and that they
enrich our lives in more ways than we could ever have imagined. I know that
there are more than 100,000 children in the country still waiting to find
families. Our hope is that all of these children can become someone's special
That is my hope as well.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past
columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at
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