Steven Greenier and his husband Robert Farler knew they wanted children, so after marrying in 2014, they took a few years to settle down, build a house, and consider their options.
They looked at surrogacy, infant adoption, and adoption from foster care. But Greenier said that when he talked to the Department of Children and Families about foster care adoption, he was told there was a significant chance that the child would eventually be reunited with family.
“While our hearts went out to those kids, we didn’t feel like having a DCF kid in our home only to be removed, reunified, placed with another relative, would be something that we could really handle emotionally,” he said.
Greenier and Farler eventually ended up at the adoption agency A Better World, which handled adoptions from foster care.
“We thought that was the best way for our family to go. Because you’re really able to set parameters of what you’re looking for in a child. You get to learn all about the child before you actually meet them,” he said.
In October 2018, they met James, a 7-year-old from Massachusetts. He came to live with them in February 2019, and his adoption was finalized in April 2022. But Greenier said they later found out something else — if James had been in the Connecticut foster care system at the time of his adoption, the state would have covered the equivalent of in-state tuition at Central Connecticut State University through an adoption subsidy.
Greenier said that not adopting James until he was 11 means that they haven’t been able to save up for his college overtime.
“You can only imagine what the cost of college will be when he’s of age in a few years,” said Greenier.
After reaching out to State Rep. Chris Poulos, D-Southington, whose son is in James’ class, Poulis introduced a bill this year that would give children adopted into Connecticut from other states the opportunity to receive the tuition assistance through a reciprocal agreement with other states.
“I have been saving for my son’s education since before he was born,” Poulos told CT Examiner. “And so I understand, as a parent, you want to provide for your kids. I understand that college education is costly and that … people adopting might be delayed in savings. So that’s one reason why I thought this proposed bill made sense.”
Poulos said that parents who adopted foster children also provide an opportunity that those children would not have otherwise had.
“I just think we want to give every benefit to kids of difficult circumstances, so that they can grow up into productive, happy, contributing adults in our state,” said Poulos.
Currently, the in-state cost of tuition at UConn is $16,332 — with fees and room and board, it comes to $37,308. Poulos said he envisioned the assistance being limited to children who attended a public college or university in the state — he said that this would be an investment in Connecticut’s future workforce. But he said that this was only a starting point, and could change as the bill is drafted.
Rachael Kriedel, director of adoptions at A Better World, said that having the tuition assistance could make a difference between families deciding to adopt one child or take a group of siblings.
“I think more children would have the opportunity to be adopted by families who can pay for the day-to-day — they can pay for food, they can pay for ballet lessons, and they can pay for all the things that go along with raising a child,” said Kriedel. “But college is expensive — and while as parents, we’re not required, I don’t know what parent who doesn’t want to assist if they can.”
She also said that, in the case of older children, the child might decline an adoption because they knew they would lose the help with college tuition if they were to leave their home state.
“I’d hate to think that there’s kids who are getting to the point where they’re aging out of the possibility of adopting who decide not to because they might lose college tuition if they go out-of-state,” said Kriedel. “[It’s] a very real consideration, if you’re a really good student and they’re faced with the possibility of not having that [tuition assistance] anymore.”
If the bill passed, Poulos said, it would mean having a conversation with other states to expand an existing interstate compact which already requires states to provide Medicaid assistance for children adopted out of state.
The bill was previously introduced in the legislature in 2020 by State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor and in 2021 by State Sen. Dan Champagne, R-Vernon, but has not yet received a vote.
Ken Mysogland, spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families, said that the bill was currently “very vague” and that the department would need more information before it could take a position for or against the bill.
James is now 12 years old. He plays basketball, practices karate and plays the bass clarinet. Greenier said that James is thinking about becoming a journalist. Last year, Greenier and Farley got him a dog.
Greenier said that while the tuition assistance might make a difference in what school James ends up attending, there’s no question that he will attend college, if that’s what he wants. But he said that might not be the case for some adopted children.
“It’s not so much for us, honestly. My husband and I, we’re both lucky. We have good jobs. We make a good living. But for some kids, this may make the difference of them not going to school or going to school,” he said.