As a father of two, I’ve been blessed to experience the joys and challenges of parenthood. It has been the privilege of my life to watch my sons grow over the years. Becoming a father showed me a new way of looking at the world, and it has inspired my work to help others experience the bliss of starting a family.

On any given day, there are roughly 400,000 children in our country’s foster care system. These are kids who want nothing more than a safe and loving home. Adoption has the potential to stabilize and forever change the course of these children’s lives. And because families come in all shapes and sizes, we must work until every one of these kids has found a loving and responsible parent.

I have tremendous admiration for those who open their hearts to the children who need it most. In Congress, I’ve worked hard to ensure that we are funding programs to help every child in need. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I supported $50 million in funding for the Adoption Opportunities program, to find permanent homes for children in foster care. The program helps make sure that all kids have an equal chance at being adopted by caring parents, regardless of their race, gender, or needs. I’ve also voted to support programs run by the Children’s Bureau at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which works to connect children with potential foster parents and families.

The Children’s Bureau awards millions of dollars to state, local, and tribal partners that offer adoption opportunities, child-welfare training, and abandoned infant assistance. Every year, my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and I do all we can to make sure the Children’s Bureau receives the funding it needs. This year, we were proud to award the Children’s Bureau $9.5 billion, an increase from 2018. This funding will allow the Bureau to serve families who make the selfless decision to adopt, especially in cases where the child has special needs. I will continue to use my position on the Appropriations Committee to help our government support foster care children and parents.

When it comes to direct federal assistance, taxpayers can receive a one-time tax credit of up to $13,810 on money spent on the adoption process. Expenses like adoption fees, court fees, attorney fees, and other costs directly related to adopting a child can all be applied for tax exemption, which can provide much-needed support for a family welcoming a child into their home. The state of Pennsylvania will also help families and individuals looking to adopt a child, with monthly stipends to help cover the cost of an added family member. I am proud that Pennsylvania has committed to making adopting a child as easy as possible.

As citizens, we can all do more to help children find homes across our nation. It is a cornerstone of our American identity, to come together and assist those who need it most. And helping children in the foster care system starts with being informed.

Despite the benefits that the foster care system adds to our society, there are many misperceptions that can turn potential parents away. For example, adoption has a reputation for being expensive, which might prevent working class families from considering it as an option. The fact is there are many federal and state programs available to help families who are looking to open their homes to these children. Another unfortunate misconception is that only families or married couples can adopt a child. That’s far from the case. In all 50 states, single Americans can legally become foster parents. Anyone who can provide a welcoming environment for a child in need deserves the opportunity to do so.

As we look forward to the future of foster care in the U.S., the job of Congress is to support and empower the families who sent us here to represent them. I’ve worked with Members on both sides of the aisle to fund government programs that strengthen our ability to place foster care children with their forever families. We must also partner with private organizations to guarantee families face the fewest obstacles on their path to adopting. Every child deserves a safe and loving home. I will continue to work to make that a reality.

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U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright

Congressman Matt Cartwright represents Pennsylvania’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, and also serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources. For more information, visit https://cartwright.house.gov.