Congressman Derek Kilmer

Representing the 6th District of Washington
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Kilmer Sponsors Bill to Provide Equal Treatment for Special Needs Native American Children

Jun 13, 2013
Press Release

In an effort to ensure the federal government is treating tribal members fairly and equitably under the law, Representative Derek Kilmer introduced legislation today with 20 bipartisan cosponsors to end a disparity in the way special needs Native American children are treated.  H.R. 2332, the Adoption Tax Credit Tribal Parity Act would ensure that parents who adopt Native American children with special needs get the tax relief that Congress intended for them to have.

“This is about helping Native American kids with special needs find a loving home,” said Representative Derek Kilmer. “The federal adoption tax credit has helped make the dreams of thousands of American families come true. Parents who adopt special needs children through Tribal Courts should have access to the same resources and tax relief. Congress needs to end this disparity and provide equal treatment under the law for special needs Native American children.”

In 2003, Congress made it easier for families to adopt children with special needs by providing a tax credit. In order to get that support, a state or county child welfare agency must first officially determine that the child is not likely to be adopted without additional financial assistance. However, no provision was included to allow tribal governments to make these determinations. This disparity has meant that parents who adopt Native American children with special needs through Tribal Courts aren’t being treated fairly.

Representative Kilmer’s bill allows parents who adopt these children to receive the same adoption tax credit for which other adoptive parents are eligible.  It would authorize Native American tribal governments to determine whether a child qualifies as a “special needs” individual for the purposes of the adoption tax credit.

National Indian Child Welfare Association Executive Director Terry Cross, Seneca, said, “Tribes have long had the authority to arrange and sanction the adoptions of their children. Currently, the tax code fails to recognize a tribe’s determination that a child being adopted has special needs - an essential criterion in making this tax credit available to families adopting through tribal courts. This legislation fixes that inadvertent oversight. It ensures that these families will avoid unnecessary financial strain while facilitating permanent homes for tribal children.”

Cross continued, “All families should have access to the Adoption Tax Credit, regardless of whether their adoption was sanctioned through a tribal child welfare system or a state child welfare system. This bill ensures that parity.”