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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 24, 1999


                           September 24, 1999

Today, the President and First Lady will announce bonus awards of $20 million to 35 states that have increased the number of children adopted from the public foster care system. These bonuses, awarded for the first time today, were first proposed by President Clinton's Adoption 2002 initiative and included in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

The President also will announce $5.5 million in grants to innovative programs that remove barriers to adoption, and he unveiled a national progress report on adoption that documents the success of the Administration's strategy. From 1996 to 1998, the number of adoptions nationwide rose 29 percent - from 28,000 to 36,000 - and is on a pace to meet the President's goal of 56,000 adoptions in 2002. This is the first significant increase in adoptions since the national foster care program was established nearly 20 years ago.

INCENTIVE AWARDS SUCCEED IN INCREASING ADOPTIONS. In the Administration's Adoption 2002 proposal and the adoption law of 1997, the President created the first-ever financial incentive for states to increase adoptions of children from the foster care system. Today, the President will release $20 million in bonus awards to 35 states that in 1998 exceeded their average adoption rate from 1995 to 1997. The $20 million in bonuses provide for up to $4,000 per adopted child, and $6,000 for each child with special needs. In fact, the states' performance in 1998 was so strong that it would have entitled them, under the law, to an additional $22.5 million.

INNOVATIVE GRANTS REDUCE BARRIERS TO ADOPTION. The President today also will announce $5.5 million in new awards under the Adoption Opportunities program. This program provides grants to public and private organizations to eliminate barriers to adoption, particularly for children with special needs. This year's grants reward a variety of initiatives, including efforts to increase adoptions of minority children, targeted field research, and awards for collaborative planning to increase adoptions across jurisdictional lines.

REPORT SHOWS CLINTON ADMINISTRATION STRATEGY IS WORKING. Since taking office, the President has championed efforts to make foster care work better, to find and assist adoptive families, and to break down barriers to adoption. Today, the President will receive a progress report from the Department of Health and Human Services that documents the effectiveness of the Administration's strategy.

NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE IMPORTANT NEXT STEPS. To follow through on this record of achievement, the President and First Lady today will urge Congress to provide new support for young people leaving foster care. Under the current system, federal financial assistance for young people in foster care ends just as they are making the critical transition to independence. The President's FY 2000 budget request increases funding by nearly $300 million to help these youth secure health care, life skills training, and educational opportunities. With the Administration's strong support, the House has already passed bipartisan legislation to address these needs. The President today urged the Senate to take prompt action on the companion measure and to safeguard the interests of vulnerable young people leaving foster care.