Every year at this time my thoughts go back to Christmas past when our kids were growing up and how wonderful they made the holidays for Diane and me. And now with grand children it reminds us even more just how much fun it is when children are around to enjoy Christmas with us.
As happy as it makes the adults, the children are also delighted being with their families. Unfortunately, not every child has a home. In an ideal world, every child would live in a permanent, stable and safe home surrounded by a loving family. Unfortunately, that is not the way it is for thousands of children who face family struggles or do not have a typical home.
I had the good fortune again this year to be on a radiothon for the Child Saving Institute that has facilitated healing for children and families in crisis for a hundred years.
They are tireless in their efforts to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect. They provide emergency services to children and teens in crisis. And they offer therapy for physically and sexually abused children.
They also help recruit foster and adoptive families for children and teens. As an adoptive parent, this is something near and dear to my heart.
Nationally, there are more than a half million children in the foster care system, including some 6,000 in Nebraska. Twenty percent of these children are waiting to be adopted.
One of the most important things we can do as Americans is to encourage adoption in order to give vulnerable children the opportunity to become part of a supportive family.
It's a big commitment and can be expensive. Depending on the type of adoption, costs can exceed $40,000 which puts it out of reach for many families.
That's why during the debate on health care reform, I pushed to include a provision that extended the Adoption Tax Credit through 2011, increased the value of the credit by $1,000, and made the credit refundable so it can have a larger impact for middle-class families.
And this month, Congress passed a tax bill that included a further extension of the standard adoption tax credit through 2012.
A recent campaign sponsored by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services was designed to encourage adoption. Its theme was, "You don't have to be a hero to be a hero and you don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." The adoption tax credit ensures that "You don't have to be wealthy to be an adoptive parent."