Baton Rouge: The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has received more than $1.4 million as part of an Adoption Incentive Award funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This marks the fourth consecutive year DCFS has received an award.
Louisiana's award totaled $1,455,596 making it the seventh largest award of the states that met the criteria for the 2011 Federal Fiscal Year. Other states receiving large awards include Texas, Arizona, Nevada, West Virginia, Florida and Washington.
In Federal Fiscal Year 2011, 468 families adopted 652 Louisiana foster children. For each child adopted over a baseline figure, a monetary award is given. The incentive awards are $4,000 for each foster child adoption; $4,000 for each special needs child; and $8,000 for each child age nine or older.
The award provides funds to use toward approved child welfare activities and programs that support and promote foster child adoption.
"DCFS is working each and every day to make connections between potential families and more than 600 foster children who are available for adoption," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "This award reminds us of our success in the last few years matching families and children and of the work we must do to recruit new foster and adoptive families to provide safe and nurturing homes to the more than 4,000 children currently in our foster care system. No child should exit the foster care system without a family."
DCFS credits specialized training of its adoption and home development staff and concentrated efforts to recruit new adoptive and foster families for the additional 233 adoptions in Louisiana over the state's baseline figure.
The Adoption Incentive 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 adoptive homes for children, particularly older children and children with special needs.
"We challenge our community and faith-based organizations to get involved in the search for adoptive and foster families and encourage everyone to think of how they can make a difference in a child's life by choosing to open their home to fostering or adopting," said Sonnier. "The support and nurturing provided by foster parents and adoptive families not only improves outcomes for foster and adoptive children but for future generations of children as well."
The DCFS website 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, http://www.adoptuskids.org/, which features information about Louisiana foster children and sibling groups available for adoption.