Thursday, October 27, 2022

Updated Federal Adoption Tax Credit for 2023

    Many people are unaware of the federal Adoption Tax Credit. This is a huge help for them to be reimbursed for their adoption expenses.  Usually, you have to spend the money for allowable adoption expenses to get the credit.  However, if you adopt from foster care, you get the entire tax credit even though you have not spent those funds.  You just have to establish that the child qualifies as a special needs child.

    More information about the tax credit can be found here:  Topic No. 607 Adoption Credit and Adoption Assistance Programs | Internal Revenue Service (

    The maximum credit available for adoptions finalized in 2023 is $15,950.  The adoption tax credit is fully available in the amount of $15,950 if your modified adjusted gross income is equal or less than $239,230.  If your modified adjusted gross income is more than $239,230 but less than $279,230, you will receive a reduced tax credit. No tax credit is available for those earning more than $279,230. The form you submit to claim the credit is 8839. Remember to keep receipts of your expenditures, which you can claim up to the full credit amount.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

COVID-19 Pandemic and Shutdown Increases Stresses in Foster Care for Children, Birth Parents, Social Workers and Licensed Foster Care Providers (Updated August 2022)

 Karen S. Law

Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC | (703) 723 – 4385

Prepared by Alyssa Howes, paralegal, with assistance from Karen S. Law


Drug Use During Pandemic Increases the Number of Children Entering Foster Care

        According to the CDC, as of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of managing stress or emotions caused by the pandemic (Czeisler, 2020). A reporting system called “ODMAP,” Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, found that there was an 18% increase in overdoses nationwide during the early months of the pandemic compared to the same months in 2019. Statistics have shown that this trend continued throughout 2020. In December of 2020, the American Medical Association reported that at least 40 U.S. states have seen increases in opioid-related deaths, as well as continuing concerns for those with substance abuse disorders (Abramson, 2021).

        Mandy Owens, PhD, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, says that along with the sudden increase in substance use during the pandemic, she has observed an increase in both quantity and frequency of drug use. Research on drug use and overdose deaths have demonstrated that covid-related stressors, such as financial instability, loneliness, and anxiety about the virus, have contributed immensely to the increase in drug use. William Stoops, PhD, professor of behavioral science, psychiatry and psychology at the University of Kentucky says, “People are more stressed and isolated, so they make unhealthy decisions, including drinking more and taking drugs.” (Abramson, 2021).

        Although we do not yet have hard statistics, we can surmise from the increased use of substances and the general increase in poverty and homelessness during COVID-19, that more birth parents will have children removed for abandonment, abuse, and neglect. It will be challenging for them to regain custody of their children under the circumstances.

        There are also practical, as well as systemic barriers to reunification. For example, parenting reunification visits have had to be conducted remotely, not in person, due to COVID-19. Additionally, social services agencies have workers working remotely. It may be more difficult for birth parents to utilize in person services. For the most part, states have been able to adapt to the challenge of remotely conducting adoptions and foster care placements; but caseworkers in New York, for example, report that COVID-19 has made it much more difficult to do their jobs of serving the over 400,000 children currently in the system (Dodge, 2021).


Fewer Foster Parents Available

        More kids have been entering the foster care system during the pandemic, but there are fewer families who are willing to take them in (Adams, 2020). Lyndsey C. Wilson, CEO of First Star, a national nonprofit that supports children in foster care, spoke to her experience during the pandemic: she has seen children transferred from foster placement to foster placement, through no fault of the child, but because the caregivers are concerned about Covid-19 (Adams, 2020). Health concerns, related to COVID-19, discourage people who want to foster children from doing so. There are many foster parents who have health issues and/or are immunocompromised, and they are apprehensive about expanding their households currently. This is a realistic concern. In Texas, for example, child welfare agencies have reported that children in foster care are contracting COVID-19 at twice the rate of the general population (Adams, 2020).

        In addition to health concerns, fewer people are willing to take care of foster children during this time due to financial strain. The economic fallout of COVID-19 and the shutdown have devastated some foster parents financially, leaving them unable to take in new children. Many foster parents have experienced job loss due the pandemic. Because a stable financial situation is a requirement for fostering children, this has disqualified them from qualifying as a foster parent.


Children Aging Out Face Extra Challenges

        Child welfare professionals are also concerned about teens aging out, or “emancipating,” from foster care. When the child reaches that point, between ages 18 and 21 depending on the state, local governments are no longer required to provide them financial assistance. Even before COVID-19, this transition into adulthood was a difficult period for the 20,000 emancipated foster youth each year (Dodge, 2021). During the pandemic, those aging out of foster care are faced with a great deal of problems and it is evident that many are struggling to manage. In May of 2020, FosterClub, a non-profit organization supporting youth in foster care, conducted a survey of 613 former foster youth, ages 18 to 24, to gain insight on how the pandemic was affecting young adults who were previously in the foster care system. According to the results, 65% of respondents working before the pandemic reported losing their jobs, 23% said they were experiencing housing insecurity, and only 37% said they had an adult they could turn to (Dodge, 2021).


Increasing Teen Suicide Rates and Necessity of Additional Mental Health Services

        Since the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare providers across the country have reported increases in mental-health related emergencies in adolescents. According to the CDC, between February and March of 2020, suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12-17 was 50.6% higher than it was during the same time in 2019; among boys aged 12–17 years, suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits increased 3.7% (Yard, et al. 2021). Additionally, among adolescents ages 12–17, the proportion of emergency department visits related to mental health increased by 31% in 2020 compared to 2019. Researchers for the CDC suspect that risk factors for suicide include physical distancing (including school attendance and social contact with teachers and peers); lack of access to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems (Yard, et al. 2021).

        Reporters for NPR spoke with providers at hospitals in seven states across the country, to investigate recent mental health trends among adolescents. All the hospitals reported that more suicidal children are visiting their hospitals, and they are in worse mental states (Chatterjee, 2021). Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis reported that the number of adolescents hospitalized after suicide attempts increased from 67 to 108, from 2019 to 2020. Hillary Blake, a pediatric psychologist at the hospital, said that October 2020 showed a 250% increase in these numbers when compared to October 2019 (Chatterjee, 2021). The pandemic has created many stress factors for children, which are increasing the risk of suicide for many. COVID-19 and the shutdown have worsened the children's mental health crisis, which was already an issue before the pandemic. For a decade, suicide rates have been going up among adolescents (Chatterjee, 2021).

        Due to the exacerbation of mental health crises among adolescents in general, one would expect that there would be an increased need for therapy and mental health services to teens in foster care. Both foster care parents and social workers will need to be proactive in obtaining the appropriate care for children who are suffering during this time.


Students in Foster Care Fall Behind in School

According to a national assessment, most students in the United States fell behind in school by between three and six months (Belkin, 2022). Children lost a significant amount of classroom time during the pandemic. Worldwide, school closures lasted an average of 224 days over the last two years. Researchers have taken a look at a study that was done on students in Argentina between 1988 and 2014, which may be able to help us predict some of the long-term effects of missed class time. Teacher strikes were very common during that period in Argentina, and students in certain regions missed an average of 88 days during their years in primary-school. Data showed that, as adults, the students in the regions with the most missed class time had higher rates of unemployment and earned less money at their jobs than those who did not miss class time due to teacher strikes (Belkin, 2022).

Approximately 270,000 out of the 400,000 children in foster care are school-aged. Even before the pandemic, research has shown that foster youth are more likely than their peers to experience hardships over the course of their education that lead to worse outcomes. On average, students in foster care earn lower grades and have lower high school graduation rates (US Dept. of Education, 2016). Foster parents and social workers need to assess learning-loss in their foster children; how much learning-loss has accrued and what subject areas is the child most behind in. With that knowledge, foster parents and social workers can give these children the tools they need to overcome the setbacks in their education caused by the pandemic.




Abramson, A. (2021, March). Substance use during the pandemic. American Psychological Association. Monitor on Psychology, 52(2).


Adams, C. (2020, December 30). Foster care crisis: More kids are entering, but fewer families are willing to take them in. NBC News.


Chatterjee, R. (2021, February 2). Child Psychiatrists Warn That The Pandemic May Be Driving Up Kids' Suicide Risk. NPR.


Czeisler, M.É., Lane, R.I., Petrosky, E., et al. (2020, August 14) Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 69(32), 1049–1057. DOI:


Dodge, D. (2021, January 8). Foster Care Was Always Tough. Covid-19 Made It Tougher. New York Times.


US Department of Education (ED). (2016, June 27). Students in foster care. Home. Retrieved from


Yard ,E., Radhakrishnan, L., Ballesteros, M. F., Sheppard, M., Gates et al. (2021, June 18). Emergency Department Visits for Suspected Suicide Attempts Among Persons Aged 12–25 Years Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January 2019–May 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 70(24), 888–894. DOI:



    This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2022.

Friday, May 20, 2022

NCFA: Adoption by the Numbers - 2019 & 2020

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) just published a report on US adoption statistics for the years 2019 and 2020. This comprehensive research can clarify misconceptions, influence policy decisions, and help professionals to better serve the adoption community.

Click the link below to read the report:

 Adoption by the Numbers - National Council For Adoption (