WASHINGTON (BP) -- A longstanding but endangered benefit for adopting families has gained new life in Congress.
Republicans in the House of Representatives amended their tax reform proposal to include the adoption tax credit in a committee vote Thursday (Nov. 9), which was World Adoption Day. The action came after adoption and pro-life advocates led a week-long charge to persuade the GOP to restore to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, a benefit available to many adoptive parents the last two decades.
Meanwhile, the Senate tax reform legislation unveiled Nov. 9 maintains the adoption tax credit.
When the House tax reform plan was revealed Nov. 2 without the credit, adoption advocates expressed concern the result would be fewer adoptions and more children without permanent parents. The adoption tax credit -- which can be for international, domestic agency, domestic private and public foster care adoptions -- is credited with helping, and even enabling, many families to adopt. The credit, instituted in 1997, is $13,570 this year for a process that can reach tens of thousands of dollars.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) rejoiced over the House Ways and Means Committee's insertion of the tax credit after days of working with House leaders on its behalf.
"This good, common-sense policy furthers a government interest by creating a pathway for vulnerable children to be welcomed into families, instead of exiled in a system at the expense of the taxpayer," ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. "Caring for orphans is a pro-life issue, and I am glad to see Congress move to retain the credit as a part of its tax reform plan."
A Southern Baptist congressman -- Republican Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina -- applauded restoration of the credit after pronouncing his disagreement with its elimination a week before. "The adoption tax credit is pro-life and pro-family," Walker said Nov. 9.
Adoption and pro-life leaders joined in affirming the decision to revive the tax credit.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family and an orphan growing up, called the tax credit "a vital tool supporting the life-affirming and life-saving act of adoption. It is a crucial part of a pro-life and pro-family policy agenda. There are many orphans whose lives will be changed for the better because of this change of course, and we are grateful for this decision."
Deanna Foster, staff counsel at Americans United for Life, expressed gratitude to GOP leaders, saying, "As a former foster child, I know exactly how impactful adoption can be in a child's life. Adoption is an important part of creating a culture of life ...."
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said, "The right-to-life movement has long promoted adoption as an alternative for single mothers facing unexpected pregnancies, offering them a viable alternative to abortion. Keeping the adoption process easier for families who want to adopt can offer encouragement to those mothers considering adoption as an alternative."
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, initially defended elimination of the tax credit even though he is the father of two adopted children.
In introducing a substitute to amend the bill Nov. 9, Brady referred to recent discussions about exclusion of the credit, saying its restoration "will ensure that parents can continue to receive additional tax relief as they open their hearts and their homes to an adopted child. I know from personal experience that the adoption process can be expensive and time consuming, and ultimately, so rewarding."
The Ways and Means Committee approved Brady's amendment that included the adoption tax credit before passing the overall bill out of committee.
Before the committee passed the amendment with the adoption provision included, Moore and other advocates for the credit expressed their displeasure with its continued exclusion after days of protests. Some pointed to the House plan's rejection of an adoption-encouraging provision while Planned Parenthood -- the country's scandal-ridden, No. 1 abortion provider -- retained federal funding.
"It is shameful that the House tax reform plan still includes the removal of the adoption tax credit," Moore tweeted Nov. 8. "Funding Planned Parenthood, but taxing adopting families. This is not pro-life, by any definition of the word. Let's fix this."
In calling for restoration of the adoption tax credit, supporters cited not only the benefit to children and adopting parents but to taxpayers.
An inter-country adoption can cost a family more than $60,000, but the government saves between $65,000 and $127,000 for each child who is adopted rather than placed in long-term foster care, the ERLC reported.
The National Council for Adoption said eliminating the tax credit "would have very serious consequences for America's children, and will have a significant impact on the future of thousands of adoptions. In 2014 alone, nearly 70,000 children were adopted by non-relatives. For many of those families, the adoption tax credit makes all the difference."
Households that make more than about $243,000 are ineligible for the adoption tax credit.
Supporters of the adoption tax credit singled out not only Brady and the House leadership in expressing thanks, but they also commended Republican Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee, Trent Franks of Arizona and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Democrat Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois for their work in restoring the benefit.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month.