President George W. Bush signed new Title IV-E adoption assistance legislation into law on October 7, 2008. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351), phases out ADC-relatedness as a eligibility requirement and provides federal financial participation for certain relatives serving as guardians for special needs children. The House of Representatives passed the legislation, identified as HR 6893, on September 17 and the Senate followed suit five days later on September 22.
A clear and comprehensive summary of the law, entitled “Federal Law Overhauls U.S. Child Welfare Financing,” appears on the web site of North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). That being the case, we will concentrate on the provisions affecting eligibility for adoption assistance. In the next article, we will focus on the new provisions for kinship care assistance.
On the first day of federal fiscal year 2010, which begins on October 1, 2009, children ages 16 and older will no longer be required to meet the AFDC-relatedness requirements in order to qualify for Title IV-E adoption assistance. Two other groups will also be exempt from the requirement.
a. Children who have been state foster care of 60 consecutive months; and
b. Siblings of age eligible children who are placed together with the same family.
In order to qualify for adoption assistance, the children in the above categories must:
1. Meet the federal special needs definition; and
2. Be in the care of a public or private agency at the time adoption proceedings are initiated as a result of an involuntary removal and placement in foster care through a judicial determination that continuation in the home was contrary to the child’s welfare; or
3. Be in the care of a public or private agency at the time adoption proceedings are initiated as a result of voluntary agreement or voluntary relinquishment (permanent surrender in Ohio). In such cases, the requirement for a judicial determination within 6 months of placement to the effect that continuation in the home is contrary to the welfare of the child would still pertain; or
4. Reside in a family foster home or child care institution with a parent who is also a minor as the result of an involuntary removal and judicial determination that continuation in the home was contrary to the child’s welfare, a voluntary agreement or voluntary relinquishment; or
5. Meet all of the requirements for SSI (Title XVI) prior to finalization of the adoption.
On October 1, 2010 (federal fiscal year 2011), the AFDC relatedness requirement will not apply to children who are 14 years of age or older on that date. Phase out of AFDC relatedness continues as follows:
FFY 2012 (October 1, 2011) – Children 12 and older;
FFY 2013 (October 1, 2012) – Children 10 and older;
FFY 2014 (October 1, 2013) – Children 8 and older;
FFY 2015 (October 1, 2014) – Children 6 and older;
FFY 2016 (October 1, 2015) – Children 4 and older;
FFY 2017 (October 1, 2016) – Children 2 and older;
FFY 2018 (October 1, 2018) – All children.
The AFDC Relatedness Requirement
From the beginning, the Title IV-E adoption assistance and foster care maintenance programs both required that a child had to be placed from the home of a specified relative in which he or she met the qualifications or would have qualified for the AFDC (federal welfare) program had an application been completed. Advocates consistently argued that the AFDC relatedness requirement was irrelevant as an eligibility standard for adoption assistance because when the birth parents’ rights were terminated, the child was essentially a legal orphan, a family of one. After 1996, the AFDC requirement became an absurd anachronism. The 1996, federal welfare reform law (Public Law 104-193) abolished the AFDC program and replaced it with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Instead of striking AFDC relatedness as an eligibility requirement for adoption assistance on the grounds that the AFDC program no longer existed, federal officials retained it by creating a “look back date.” Question of Section 8.2 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual sets July 16, 1996 as the AFDC “look back date.” This means that in order to qualify for Title IV-E adoption assistance, a child had to meet the AFDC standards as they existed on July 16, 1996.
The farther away one gets from 1996, the harder to reconstruct a hypothetical AFDC-relatedness test. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 marks the beginning of the end of this obsolete requirement for adoption assistance.