Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Change to the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program

It appears that there will be no attempt to make automatic changes in existing Title IV-E adoption assistance payments, which signifies the state’s acceptance that adoption assistance agreements are individual contracts. Please let us know if you receive a notification that your adoption assistance payment is being reduced without your consent. Then, immediately contact the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ (ODJFS) Bureau of State Hearings and ask for a hearing.

After further consideration and discussions with the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), Sandra Holt, Deputy Director for Family and Children Services at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced new changes in Ohio’s Title IV-E adoption assistance program in a letter to county children services directors dated August 7, 2009. See the previous blog for a discussion of programs other that Title IV-E adoption assistance. The most recent communication corrects some changes announced in the Deputy Director’s letter of July 31. 2009.

No Automatic Changes in Current Benefits

The Deputy Director’s letter cites Ohio Administrative Code rule 5101:2-49-12 which states

“. . . . the adoptive parent(s) and the PCSA may agree to modify/amend the payment amount or provision for services. Any modification/amendment of the Title IV-E adoption assistance (AA) payment amount or provision of services must be made by mutual agreement between the adoptive parent(s) and the PCSA based on the needs of the child and the circumstances of the adoptive family. When the parties concur upon a change in the AA payment amount, a modified/amended agreement shall be completed and signed by both the adoptive parent(s) and the PCSA.”

There is no mention of unilateral or automatic reductions in existing agreements, which signals the acceptance of adoption assistance agreements a contracts.

State Participation Rates for Agreements Negotiated After September 1, 2009

The August 7, 2009 letter announced that the state will provide the non federal portion of adoption assistance benefits up to a maximum payment of $240 per month. The current federal participation rate is 68.34% and the non-federal matching rate is 33.66%. This means that for every monthly adoption assistance payment of $240, the federal share will be about $164 and the state’s non-federal share will be about $76.

Counties will continue to be responsible the non federal portion of any negotiated adoption assistance payment over $240 per month. With a non-federal participation rate of 33.66%, counties will only be responsible for around $20 per month more than they were with the state provided the non-federal portion of adoption assistance up to payments of $300 per month.

Federal and state regulations governing negotiations based upon the needs of the child and circumstances of the family have not changed. Adoptive parents should be as assertive as before in negotiating fair and adequate adoption assistance agreements on behalf of their special needs children.