The Missouri General Assembly has overwhelmingly passed a package of tax cuts for foster and adoptive parents and sent them to Gov. Mike Parson.
The bills, which received near-unanimous support in both the Missouri House and Senate, allow foster families to claim up to $5,000 in income tax deductions for the costs of taking in a child. They also expand the $10,000 tax credit for adoptive parents of any child.
Those credits are currently only available to parents who adopt special needs children who are wards of the state. The legislation would raise the state’s annual caps for those credits from $2 million to $6 million.
Over the past five years, the amount claimed for special needs adoption tax credits has dropped about sevenfold. The decline came with a new state law that barred eligibility for parents who adopted children from out of state, according to legislative analysts.
“There’s a lot of children in Missouri today that get their voices heard,” said Mountain Grove Republican Rep. Hannah Kelly, the bills’ sponsor, as the House passed the final versions of the new tax rules on Monday.
The bills were a top priority for House Speaker Rob Vescovo, an Arnold Republican, and Kelly, the House assistant majority leader. Vescovo was adopted after spending time in foster care as a child, and Kelly is an adoptive parent.
“Being a foster parent is a costly undertaking that is cost prohibitive for many families who have so much love to give,” Arnold said in a press release after the vote.
The bills include provisions added by the Senate that would make it easier for the state to terminate a birth parent’s rights and for prospective parents to adopt.
Some House Democrats last month objected to a section that allows the termination if a birth parent has been convicted of failing to pay child support for 12 months. But an attempt to remove the provision was unsuccessful.
Another Senate addition, included by Sen. Andrew Koenig, a Manchester Republican, was a “Birth Match Program” in which the state is notified when a child is born to a parent who previously had parental rights terminated, or was found to have abused a child. Under that program, child welfare workers would contact the parent to offer services.
The bills also would eliminate a requirement in adoption cases that the adoptive parents or an agency pay for the birth parents to be represented by an attorney.