HHS Awards $100 Million in Bonuses to States for Reductions in Out-Of-Wedlock Births
Coming just weeks after HHS announced its ASFA adoption bonuses, the $100 million bonus for reducing out-of-wedlock births is an interesting contrast. I must admit that I do not know much about the federal bastard reduction program, but it’s probably a good idea. As far as the adoption incentive program goes, the feds spent about $15 million to encourage 3700 adoptions in 2002 or about $4000 per child. This got me wondering, how much are we spending per child to reduce out-of-wedlock births? This seemingly simple task was actually quite difficult because states receive the bastard bonuses based on the rate of reduction, not on raw numbers.
After a significant amount of digging I discovered that the District of Columbia–which is just one example–reduced out-of-wedlock births from 4626 in 2000 to 4376 in 2001. Its federal bonus for 250 fewer illegitimate children . . . almost $20 MILLION (which is $5 million more than the feds spent on the entire adoption incentive program nationwide). The federal bonus PER CHILD was $80,000 or 20 times the bonus for each adoption. A similarly-funded adoption bonus program would cost almost $300 million.
After digging around a bit more (no wonder this data is so hard to find) I found this interesting tidbit from a February 2003 HHS study of the out-of-wedlock births bonus program:
“Officials in nearly all study states said that potential availability of the bonus had little, if any, impact on state efforts to reduce nonmarital childbearing, and among study states receiving the bonus, only one of three directed bonus funds toward nonmarital pregnancy prevention activities. Many state officials perceive the bonus outcome measure as either inappropriate or relatively difficult to influence, or both, discouraging attempts to do so.”
My conclusion: we are spending $100 million per year on a program which probably doesn’t work and $15 million on a program which probably does work. You economists out there tell me, how much money are we saving by reducing the foster care rate versus the amount of savings for each out-of-wedlock birth (the scope of this study is beyond my meager stats 101 abilities). You policy people tell me which program is more effective. And for everyone else with front line knowledge or lack thereof, post your comments (anonymously if need be) on the blog site for the entire world to see (we have some very influential readers among our 3500 subscribers).
One potentially good piece of news is that a bill is pending in both the Senate and the House which will reauthorize the adoption incentive program which expires this year. Funding is set at $43 million. Perhaps we can fund it with some of money we’re spending on out-of-wedlock births. Or even better, maybe we can somehow reclassify illegitimate foster children who are adopted into a reduction in births. Hmmm. Let me get my calculator.