Indiana legislators recently passed a family supports measure during the special session that provides various tax credits and exemptions for families adopting children. Several members of the Indiana Two-Way were curious about how this would affect the adoption process in Indiana and if it would provide help to agencies who facilitate these adoptions.
Meg Sterchi is the executive director of Adoptions of Indiana, a nonprofit offering various education and support services for birth parents and adoptive families.
“I think that it's good that Indiana is increasing services, well, money, to provide more services to women who are pregnant. But I think we're just scratching the top of what is needed if we really want to help women who are pregnant,” she said.
One of the bill’s major changes was raising the adoption tax credit from $1,000 to $2,500.
Sterchi said this price change will “not make a big difference.” She said she feels the scope of this legislation should’ve gone further to support pregnant people.
“I'm greatly concerned about the lack of choice for Indiana women; we've always believed that we needed to provide information and support and resources for women to help them make the best decision that they could make for themselves for the pregnancy for their children,” she said.
Shannon Schumacher is the president and CEO of the Villages of Indiana, the state’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency.
“Oftentimes, with the birth mother, there's lots of attention on her during her pregnancy,” she said. “But once the child is adopted, we know that oftentimes the support for the birth mother wanes at that point so to make sure that there's continued support for those birth mothers after the baby is adopted [is important].”
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Schumacher said many women who place their children for adoption are struggling with addiction, poverty or mental health issues.
Another issue Indiana faces is adoption dissolution or failed adoptions – where children who enter the foster care system following a severed legal relationship between them and their adoptive parents.
An investigation from 2008 to 2020 found that more than 2,000 children in Indiana were sent to foster care following failed adoptions – leading to mental health and other issues for children.
The new abortion ban will likely lead to more children born and may increase these numbers.
“We know that we're going to have more babies born and we know we're going to have more adoptions, Indiana has about a little over 4,000 adoptions in most years with 2021 being one of those,” she said. “We know we're going to see an increase in adoption and we know adoption is expensive – to go through a private adoption is upwards of $40,000 a year.”
Schumacher is hopeful that these tax credits will be helpful in this process and encourage families to adopt.
At a committee meeting during the early stages of the bill, Schumacher testified to advocate for more supports for adoption providers and families. She said an extra $14 million would be needed to compensate for an increase in pregnancies from the abortion bill.
Listeners also wondered whether this bill would only affect infants, or if it would also help older children.
Both women emphasized that the tax credits and exemptions on this bill could be applied to children of all ages. But both agencies generally work with younger children.
“It is very, very important, I think, for all of us to step up and take care of our most vulnerable Hoosiers,” Schumacher said. “And those are infants.”
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