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Special Needs Adoption Assistance

Prospective adoptive parents of an eligible special needs child can receive adoption assistance. Adoptive parents receive financial support or adoption subsidies through monthly payments. The subsidy aims to help with medical needs and related expenses.

This article provides an overview of special needs adoption assistance. This includes eligibility requirements.

The Adoption Process

Adoption is a legal process through which prospective adoptive parents prepare for an adopted child to join their family. Adoptive families offer a sense of permanency to children. Adoptive homes become the child's permanent home in legal adoptions. In all adoptions, there are many steps before finalization of the adoption.

Prospective parents attend an adoption orientation, complete paperwork, and do a home study. After a court decides the adoption is in the best interest of the child, the adoptive placement is complete. The adoptive parents are the child's legal parents.

Using an Agency

Prospective parents can engage a private adoption agency or a public child-placing agency. Cost is one main difference between these two types of agencies. There are adoption fees, attorney fees, and court costs when using private adoption agencies. Adopting through a public adoption agency is often free.

Public agencies often include a local Department of Children and Families. Family services include caring for foster children. Children can remain in foster care until they are 21 years of age.

Foster parents can adopt a child they are fostering. As a caregiver, they are more aware of the needs of the child. They also have experience with foster care maintenance. Foster care maintenance funds help foster parents care for the foster child. This includes child care, health care, and mental health services for the minor child.

Adoption Assistance

The purpose of adoption assistance is to remove barriers to adoption. Adoption is an expensive choice. Private adoption fees are at least $30,000. The cost of raising special needs children is another barrier. Some adoptive parents cannot afford these costs. Some adoptive parents receive medical assistance and financial assistance through adoption assistance payments.

Adoption assistance is available through the federal government and individual state governments.

Defining "Special Needs"

Federal adoption assistance funds for children with special needs are available under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Title IV-e adoption assistance applies only to the adoption of a child with special needs.

There are three criteria to identify a child with special needs:

  1. The child can't or shouldn't return to their birth parents
  2. The child has a factor or several factors, making them difficult to place (i.e., age, sibling group status, medical condition, emotional disabilities, etc.)
  3. The state made reasonable efforts to place the child without a subsidy

The state or tribe determines if a child fits the special needs criteria.

Eligibility for Special Needs Adoption Assistance

First, the child must meet the criteria of a "special needs" orphan. Then the state determines they are eligible to receive special needs adoption assistance. Children are eligible for either state adoption assistance or Title IV-e assistance, not both.

Some of the eligibility criteria for special needs adoption assistance include the following:

  • The child is in foster care for 60 consecutive months or more. (Adoption assistance may cover siblings eligible for adoption with their sibling.)
  • The child meets the eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
  • The child's previous adoption dissolved (an adoptive parent died, for example).

Special Needs Adoption Assistance Benefits

State policies determine the expenses covered. They also cover the frequency of maintenance payments and benefits provided by the adoption assistance program. The application of state policies may be inconsistent statewide.

Special needs adoption assistance includes the following:

  • Monthly payments up to the amount provided to a foster family or foster child
  • Medicaid coverage (automatic for eligible children)
  • Reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses
  • Post-adoption services or referrals for special needs children
  • Federal tax credits

Adoptive parents can renegotiate the adoption assistance agreement if the subsidy does not cover the adopted child's needs.

Get Help

State and federal adoption assistance programs ensure special needs children find a home. Talk to a local adoption law attorney for additional information on adoption assistance.

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