“… Arizona spends only 13% of its welfare funding on welfare itself, and none on child care or pre-K. Meanwhile, it diverts 61% of the dollars to the state’s child protective services system, which amounts to more than $150 million repurposed in this way every year, a ProPublica review of budget documents shows. In other words, welfare in Arizona largely goes not to helping poor parents financially but rather to the state’s Department of Child Safety — an agency that investigates many of these same parents, and that sometimes takes their kids away for reasons arising from the poverty that they were seeking help with in the first place.” 48 Other Bad Incentives Adoption bounties. Under the Adoption and Safe Families Act, for every finalized adoption over a baseline number, states get anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. 49 The federal government calls these bonuses. A more appropriate term is bounties. If an adoption fails, the state doesn’t have to give the money back. In fact, the state can place the same child again and, if the baseline is exceeded, collect another bounty. The incentive is obvious: rush to terminate children’s rights to their parents and make quick-and-dirty, slipshod placements. In Kentucky, in 2006, local newspapers and NBC News exposed a scandal in which the state was doing just that. 50 Six years later, a Washington State report found that “Permanency initiatives are often ‘numbers driven’ and ‘time specific’ which can adversely affect both practice and placement outcomes. When the driving force behind permanency initiatives is numbers, rushed and inadequate placements, adoption disruptions, multiple moves and longer stays in care result.” 51 One small bit of good news: bounties now also go to guardianships, which usually means placement with relatives—though those are limited to $4,000. 52 This, too, illustrates the misplaced priorities of the system: adoption, which is more likely to be with a stranger, literally pays off better for a state than guardianship with a relative.
Something David Sanders, now executive vice president of systems improvement at Casey Family Programs, said in 2003 when he was director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, still holds true today: “What you have now is an incentive to initially remove the child and an incentive to adopt them out. I think when you put these two together, there is a problem.” 53 Stealing foster children’s money. It’s estimated that on any given day, 10 percent of foster youth, about 40,000 children, are entitled to either Social Security Disability Benefits or Social Security Survivor Benefits. But in most states, family policing agencies go to great lengths to swipe that money and keep it for themselves before the children ever get it. 54 It’s legal, but it’s about as ethical as and more harmful than stealing candy from a baby. In an excellent example of how the family policing establishment and its allies put their own interests ahead of the children when legislation first was proposed in Congress to stop the theft, both the Child Welfare League of America and the Children’s Defense Fund opposed it. Their rationale: it would deprive these wonderful agencies of some small fraction of the billions they get every year to do their wonderful work “helping” children. ______________ 48 Hager, Eli. “A Mother Needed Welfare. Instead, the State Used Welfare Funds to Take Her Son.” ProPublica , Dec. 23, 2021. https://www.propublica.org/article/a- mother-needed-welfare-instead-the-state-used- welfare-funds-to-take-her-son 49 Kelly, John. “How The New Adoption Incentives Would Work.” The Imprint , July 8, 2014. https://imprintnews. org/analysis/how-the-new-adoption-incentives- would-work/7437 50 Thompson, Lea. “Increasing adoptions: A good idea gone wrong?” NBC Nightly News , June 13, 2006. https:// www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna13304867 51 Patrick Dowd, Office of the Family and & Children’s Ombudsman. Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee Report , September, 2012. 52 Kelly, supra note 49. 53 Anderson, Troy. “Government Bonuses Accelerate Adoptions,” Daily News of Los Angeles , Dec. 8, 2003, 54 Hager, Eli and Shapiro, Joseph. “State Foster Care Agencies Take Millions Of Dollars Owed To Children In Their Care.” The Marshall Project and NPR, April 22, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/04/22/988806806/ state-foster-care-agencies-take-millions-of-dollars- owed-to-children-in-their-ca
66 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022
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