OPINION: Free market principles help the helpless

Posted on Apr 30 2019 - 5:00am by Lauren Moses

On April 22, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill into law that would provide a tax credit for donations to nonprofit foster care programs, known as the Children’s Promise Act.

Under this new legislation, both individuals and businesses can receive tax credits for charitable gifts to these non-profit organizations. Arizona has already tried something similar and has been successful in their model. Onward Hope, Inc., a foster care nonprofit in Arizona, has been a beneficial program in the state as it reached more than 320 youths in 2017.

What stands out about this new legislation is its commitment to rewarding individuals and businesses for donating to foster care nonprofits. According to the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the legislation expands the individual tax credit to $3 million and creates a $5 million business tax credit. Getting businesses involved in social change can serve the state, as their donations will be more substantial and incentivize further involvement in social change.

The motives for creating a tax incentive is quite simple: competition breeds better results. The free market is wildly successful at creating a competitive atmosphere where the best idea prevails. Unlike the government, these companies are not crippled by bureaucratic red tape. Whether for profit or not, private companies know how to allocate resources and can quickly react to changes in supply and demand.

The National Council of Nonprofits states that charitable giving generates as much as a 5 to 1 return. And the nonprofit organizations that provided long-term solutions to families and orphans divert these children from the state-sponsored foster care service. Thus, the state saves money.

The Children’s Promise Act sponsored by Rep. Mark Baker comes just in time for Mississippi. After the Olivia Y. lawsuit against the governor in 2004, Mississippi has been looking for real solutions to its foster care system. Since the settlement, Mississippi had improved dramatically in placing siblings together, close to their homes and in stable foster care homes.

However, as of May 2014, Mississippi’s foster care system still had many flaws. Of these included maltreatment investigations and their slow processes. Diverting children into nonprofit foster care will provide more children with more long-term solutions.

The federal government has also pushed for better solutions for foster care and children in crisis. The Family First Prevention Services Act implemented nationally in 2018 emphasized the importance of fixing the family unit. In the act, assistance is given to families struggling with abuse and addiction so that they can stay together.

Some nonprofit foster care organizations set to see the benefit from this legislation are Baptist Children’s Village and Canopy Children’s Solutions. Much like in Arizona, these groups will be better funded and encouraged to find new solutions to the foster care problem.

The two legislative works coupled together will create a better system for children in the state of Mississippi. Lawmakers are incentivizing the private sector to be involved in the lives of those most in need in society. Mississippians should be proud to lead the nation in protecting innocent lives through the foster care system.

Lauren Moses is sophomore accounting and political science major from Dallas.