State lawmakers passed a tax credit increase Thursday for foster parents in Georgia to incentivize more adoptions, advancing a key plank in Gov. Brian Kemp’s legislative priorities this year.

The tax-credit bill, sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, would boost the annual tax credit for new foster parents from $2,000 to $6,000 annually for the first five years after adoption, then drop back to $2,000 per year. The credit would end when the foster child turns 18.

Sen. Bo Hatchett, who carried Reeves’ bill in the Senate and is one of the governor’s floor leaders, said the credit increase aims to encourage more adoptions in Georgia.

“This bill saves the state money, and at the same time this bill offers much-needed support to those families who open their hearts and their homes to children,” Hatchett, R-Cornelia, said from the Senate floor on Thursday.

Hatchett’s bill passed unanimously in the Senate after also passing unanimously in the House earlier this month, and now heads to Kemp’s desk for his signature.

The number of Georgia children in foster care has declined over the past three years but remains high, according to state Division of Family and Children Services data. The state currently has about 11,200 children in foster care, down from 15,000 in March 2018.

Kemp has made foster care a legislative priority for his administration along with cracking down on human trafficking and gang activities.

Along with Hatchett’s measure, Kemp has backed other bills currently moving through the legislature, including one that would lower the minimum age adults are allowed to adopt children from 25 to 21.

third bill would add more training for juvenile court officers, expand rules for parents under court-ordered alternatives care and require officials to report on a range of child-abuse treatment including abandonment, neglect, emotional abuse and exposure to chronic alcohol or drug use.

Those measures follow Kemp’s signing of a bill last year that prohibits foster parents from engaging in improper sexual behavior with children in their care, closing a loophole in current state law.