In Federal Fiscal Year 2009, 444 families adopted 583 Louisiana foster children, including 106 children aged nine or older.
"While foster families provide safe refuge for children, we know that the best place for children is in a permanent home," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "Reunification with the biological family is the goal for every child whenever foster care services are needed. When reunification is not possible, though, adoption provides a wonderful opportunity for families to welcome children in foster care into a permanent, stable and loving home."
Louisiana's adoption award for 2009 totaled $1,006,189 and was the thirteenth largest amount awarded to the 38 states that met the criteria.
"Using these funds to enhance Louisiana's child welfare and adoption services for children who are victims of abuse or neglect will allow us to continue our steadfast commitment to ensuring that each child in Louisiana has a safe and stable home," said Johnson.
DCFS has two years to spend the funds, which will go to approved child welfare activities and programs that support and promote foster child adoption. The agency will begin putting together recommendations in the next few months.
The Adoption Incentives program was created as part of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which authorized incentive funds to states that increased the number of children adopted from foster care. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 provided stronger incentives for states to find children, particularly older children and children with special needs, adoptive homes.
The incentive awards for each child over the baseline: $4,000 for each foster child adoption; $4,000 for each special needs child; and $8,000 for each child age nine or older.
DCFS credits specialized training of its adoption and home development staff and concentrated efforts to recruit new adoptive and foster families for the additional 192 adoptions in Louisiana over the state's 2007 baseline figures.
In total, HHS awarded $39 million to Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico
There were 4,300 children in Louisiana's foster care program as of September 2010, cared for by approximately 2,000 foster families, as well as in residential programs. More than 554 of these children are available for adoption.
DCFS recruits year-round for foster families who can house and care for a child or children temporarily. Orientation meetings are held each month across the state. Orientation schedules are posted at www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/fostercare. Additional information on qualifications, the certification process and life as a foster family can also be found at the site.
"I encourage families who are considering adoption to visit the DCFS website to learn more about adoption services and how they can make a difference in the life of child through adoption," said Johnson.
Along with television, radio and newspaper features, DCFS launched a feature on its website, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov, in February 2009 that profiles foster children who are available for adoption. The goal of the initiative is to link foster children who are available to be adopted with families. Of the 73 children featured on the site since it was launched, 26 of the children profiled have been paired with families and have been adopted or have adoptions in progress.
The DCFS website also features information for prospective adoptive parents, including guides to determine if families are ready to open their home to a child and instructions on how to start the adoption process. That information can be found at www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/adoption, along with a link to a national adoption website, www.adoptuskids.org, which features information about Louisiana foster children and sibling groups available for adoption.