Keep adoption tax credit

Tax plan misses pro-life focus

When it comes to promoting and practicing the pro-life cause, adoption has to be at the top of the chart. What better way is there to foster the dignity of human life than to open up one’s home to an infant or child who, for different reasons, lacks a loving home?

The church also teaches that married couples “need to welcome children lovingly from God, whether through birth or adoption” (U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, 381).

November is National Adoption Month, a time to bring awareness to adoption and celebrate families who have welcomed children into their homes through adoption. According to the latest statistics from the National Council for Adoption, the total number of all adoptions in the United States in 2014 was 110,373. This includes infant adoptions, intercountry adoptions and adoptions from foster care.

According to the Adoption Network Law Center, National Adoption Month was first observed in 1998, although its roots date back to 1976, when the governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, proclaimed the first week in November as “Adoption Week.” President Gerald Ford proclaimed the first National Adoption Week in 1984.

The adoption process can be a long, challenging and expensive journey for couples. An Adoptive Families survey showed that the total costs range from around $3,000 (when adopting from U.S. foster care) to $50,000 for international adoption. U.S. newborn adoptions cost an average of $35,000, reported Adoptive Families.

Like all new family additions, adoption can test a couple’s financial wherewithal. That is one reason the U.S. government has provided an adoption tax credit (ATC).

ATC was enacted in 1996 as a way to help families pay for adoption fees. It has a maximum credit of approximately $13,500. Families earning more than $242,000 are ineligible for the credit.

On Oct. 24, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means announced a tax overhaul plan (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) that will eliminate the ATC. It will also cut a tax exclusion for employer adoption assistance.

“If passed, it will be harder and more expensive for American families to adopt,” stated John Kelly, senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. “For the children in the United States waiting to be adopted and brought into a loving home — the current proposal as it stands will make that much tougher to do.”

In a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Domestic Justice and Human Development, stated that lawmakers need to consider a tax bill “through the lens of the moral principles” outlined by the bishops.

These principles include caring for the poor and strengthening families.

Quoting Pope Francis, Bishop Dewane said that  “those services which society offers its citizens are not a type of alms, but rather a genuine ‘social debt’ with respect to the institution of the family, which is foundational and which contributes to the common good.”

Eliminating the adoption tax credit seems to violate this foundational “social debt.” It also seems to deter couples from practicing adoption, an essential pro-life cause — something Republican sponsors of the tax overhaul bill commonly defend in their election campaigns.