A tax credit many Americans rely upon to offset the upfront costs of adoption was in jeopardy of being taken away earlier this week. Part of a proposed 429-page tax reform plan Republican leaders are hoping to pass through Congress, the proposed cut was met with criticism from key evangelical leaders.
The latest dialogue between state and church saw the church win out this time. On Thursday, November 9, 2017, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 24-16 to add the credit back into their proposed reforms.
The news came as a huge relief for evangelical leaders, some of whom (such as ERLC president Russell Moore) have adopted children themselves.
“It is in the national interest to see to it that vulnerable children are protected, not exiled in a system. I’m glad to see that interest upheld rather than torpedoed in the Senate’s proposal,” Moore told Christianity Today.
The Initial Reasoning Behind the Cut
Rep. Kevin Brady (TX), an adoptive father of two who says he never used the credit, believes the current tax credit primarily favors the wealthy and that the Republican bill actually benefits families that would potentially adopt.
“I’m convinced that if we give tax relief to families every year—they can use their paychecks for what matters most to them—including adopting children,” Brady told CNN. “We are working to give families not only help when they’re adopting but every year when that child is growing up, by making sure they have more in their paychecks to raise kids.”
The help Brady references is a raising of the tax credit for all children from $1000 to $1600 a month. Both Brady and House Speaker Paul Ryan say they believe that by giving middle to lower income families more discretionary income, they are freeing them to pursue whatever goals they want.
“The general philosophy of this is: Instead of giving you a tax break for one thing you do at one time, we want to give you a tax break for anything you do for all time, meaning lower your taxes always, you do what you want with your money,” Ryan said. “Instead of saying, ‘We’ll give you a one-time break if you do something we approve of,’ let’s just give you your money back in the first place.”
Evangelicals Speak Up
Many influential evangelical groups voiced their concern with the proposed cut. In a blog post last week, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly wrote “More than 60 percent of adopted children in the U.S. are adopted by middle- and lower-income taxpayers. Almost one-half of children adopted from foster care live in families with household incomes under $75,000. … Eliminating [the tax credit] is unacceptable. We can do better as a nation.”
In an editorial for the Washington Post, Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth Chapman, both founders of the adoption advocacy group Show Hope asked for Congress to rescind this portion of the tax bill.
“Thousands of children have been adopted by American families who have used the adoption tax credit, and to these families, this credit has made all the difference. As adoptive parents, we want other families to have the opportunity to provide waiting children with loving homes … The adoption tax credit can mean the difference between a child being adopted or remaining in foster care … Without continuing support for this credit, children, families, communities and our society will certainly carry the loss … If Congress truly wants to reform our tax structure to benefit American families, preserving the adoption tax credit is an obvious step in the right direction.”
The current adoption tax credit is $13,570 per adopted child in homes with a total income less than $203,540. Starting at that income level, it begins phasing out, disappearing completely at a household income of $243,540. Nearly all major adoption advocacy groups, foster care agencies, and pro-life groups have spoken out against removing it, fearing it will only act as a deterrent from adoption.
The executive director of one such agency, Mary Boo from the North American Council on Adoptable Children, told CNN, “there are children who have no families. What’s more important than that? We’ve talked to thousands of families who could not have adopted without that credit. We know it’s important.”
Good News for Many in the Church
As Barna Research reported in 2013, “practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population.” While 2 percent of all Americans have adopted a child, 5 percent of practicing Christians have.
While an increased tax rebate per child per year would have eventually yielded more money than the one-time $13,570 credit, the cut would have put adoptive families in a bind. The upfront costs associated with adoption have never been low, and if anything, are rising. The credit gives more families a chance of caring for orphans, which we are instructed to do in Scripture.