Several items buried in the recently passed health care reform act can help many new families — including a tax credit for adoptions.
For example, the act requires that companies must provide reasonable break times and break areas for mothers to pump breast milk for at least a year after the birth of a child. Also, the National Institute of Mental Health will be conducting a study of women with postpartum depression, a debilitating condition for some.
And, for families who choose to adopt, the adoption tax credit has been extended a year, through December 2011. It increases by $1,000 and, despite the name, becomes a refund instead of a credit.
That means families can get a refund of up to $13,170 for legitimate expenses incurred during a national or international adoption.
Before, the tax credit could not be more than the amount of taxes owed, and families had up to five years to carry it over. But if low-income families didn't owe taxes, they received no credit, keeping adoption out of their reach financially.
While the first two items are very important to growing families, the latter could seal the deal for some low- and middle-income folks who would love to enlarge their families but are deterred by the high costs of adoption.
"When we adopted for the first time almost 15 years ago, there wasn't anything out there to help," said Brenda Riddle, co-founder and executive director of the board at Adopt Inc., a private adoption agency in Lexington.
She sold some property for $10,000 to pay for the adoption of her son from Guatemala. When she adopted her daughter from that country in 2002, a $10,000 tax credit was available.
With the cost of private adoptions averaging $20,000, the extended refund, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, makes adoption much more affordable, Riddle said.
And adoption can be quite expensive.
Riddle said prospective adoptive parents can incur expenses for airplane tickets bought at the last minute or for gas as the family travels to meet with birth parents; there could be hotel and food bills, and attorney fees, as well as the fees charged by private agencies.
"Our placement fee is $12,500, and that is low," Riddle said. "That pays for everything it takes to run a non-profit agency."
Some of the fees also help fund the agency's orphanage in Guatemala, Hope for Tomorrow Children's Home.
If a family wants to adopt internationally, the fees can double. Russia is the most expensive country from which to adopt, she said, because of repeated required trips to that country.
Most families want a newborn, Riddle said, and infants are hard to come by in the foster care system, from which it is less expensive to adopt. "The purpose of the state system is reunification," Riddle said, causing some infants to linger in foster care longer than prospective adopted families would like.
But families adopting from foster care have allowable expenses, too, usually for attorney fees. The home studies and social worker's involvement are state-funded from our taxes.
There is an income cap, however.
For families making less than $182,180, with allowances for inflation, full credit is available. For families that make more, the refund decreases.
So, despite the heft of the 2,000-page health care bill, there are little gems tucked deep inside that help families.
For the children whom adoptive parents bring into their families, one of those gems is priceless.