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Apr. 29—Missouri lawmakers came through for kids in a big way recently, and state Rep. Hannah Kelly, House Speaker Rob Vescovo and Gov. Mike Parson are among those who should be singled out for their support. They put their legislation where their heart is.
Kelly, a Republican from Mountain Grove, sponsored the measure that would expand adoption tax credits and foster care tax deductions for foster and adoptive families. She knows what it means to be a foster parent, having adopted a foster daughter.
Vescovo, an Arnold Republican, was in foster care for more than year as an infant and he said last week that he wants to make the adoption and foster care system a continued focus for the next few years.
And Parson said that nearly two years ago, he and his wife went through the adoption process with their son and daughter-in-law and had "that experience of a little girl that you don't know where she would have ended up today if it hadn't been for her being able to come to our family."
State Sen. Andrew Koenig, also a foster and adoptive parent, and state Sen. Holly Rehder pushed parts of what was ultimately included in the bill, and so did state Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, a former foster parent and adoptive parent whom Kelly said helped get it across the line.
"Missouri has to do a better job of making sure we provide homes for children," Parson said at the bill signing.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, foster parents who provide care for at least six months will be eligible to claim an income tax deduction of up to $5,000 for a married couple or $2,500 for an individual.
And on that date, adoptive parents will be eligible to claim a tax credit of up to $10,000 for adoption expenses. Previously, the tax credit was only available to parents adopting children with special needs. The bill expands that eligibility, but still places a priority on applications from families adopting special-needs children who are wards of the state.
Additional provisions tacked onto the bill would establish the Birth Match Program, which would require the Department of Social Services to share data with the state registrar's office when a child is born to a parent whose parental rights were previously terminated or who was found to have committed child abuse or neglect. Case workers would then be required to make an effort to offer services.
There are nearly 14,000 children in Missouri's foster care system, needing help, needing hope and needing families.
We applaud all these lawmakers for their personal and professional commitment to the cause.