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Dec/Jan 2005Vol. 5, No. 10HHS Honors 17 Groups, Individuals for Adoption Excellence

On November 23, 2004, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced 17 Adoption Excellence Award winners that had a role in increasing the number of foster children placed in permanent homes.

"The people and organizations we honor today have shown selfless devotion to children and youth who need a permanent family," Secretary Thompson said. "They don't just talk about it; they do it. By taking personal action, they have enriched their own lives as well as the lives of many American children."

Given annually since 1997, the awards honor States, local agencies, private organizations, courts, businesses, individuals, and families for their accomplishments and efforts to increase the adoptions of foster children. The awards grew out of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which provided financial incentives for States to increase adoptions, made safety the paramount consideration for determining placement, and mandated swifter time frames for permanent placement decisions.

In fiscal year 2003, some 50,000 children were adopted from public child welfare agencies. Of the 523,000 children in the foster care system in the United States today, more than 118,000 are available for adoption. Of these children, 64 percent are over age 5, with the average age being 8 years old. Twenty-eight percent are black and 16 percent are Hispanic.

The award winners were chosen by a committee representing nonprofit adoption agencies, child welfare and adoption advocates, adoptive parents, foundations, businesses, and State and Federal offices.

"As we commemorate National Adoption Month this November, we show our appreciation for a group of extraordinary Americans who have gone out of their way to make sure kids in foster care have stable, loving homes," said Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., HHS assistant secretary for children and families. "Their deeds clearly demonstrate compassion in action."

For a complete list of award recipients, see the full press release on the HHS website at