Thursday, August 13, 2009

State Adoption Maintenance Subsidy Changed Again; The Wheels Keep on Turning

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 state adoption maintenance subsidy program in a letter to county agency directors, dated August 7, 2009. The most recent communication some corrects some changes announced in the Deputy Director’s letter of July 31. 2009. No changes were announced in the PASSS program and the program for reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses is still scheduled to be reduced from a maximum of $2,000 to a maximum of $1,000 beginning with applications signed after September 1, 2009. Changes in the Title IV-E adoption assistance program will be discussed in the next blog.

The State Adoption Maintenance Subsidy (SAMS)

The state adoption maintenance subsidy, headed for termination on September 1, 2009 will now continue until 2018. Not coincidentally, that is the year in which the ADC-relatedness requirement for federal Title IV-E adoption assistance will be completely phased out of existence. The phase out begins on October 1, 2009, for children age 16 and over and continues down the age scale two years at a time.

The state’s contribution to the state subsidy program will be $240 per month, which for all practical purposes means that the maximum payment rate will be $240 per month. Unlike the federal Title IV-E adoption assistance program, counties receive no outside funds if they agree to payment over the state participation rate. Any payment over $240 would come entirely from county coffers.

The letter also announced the intention of lowering existing as well as new state adoption subsidy payments to $240 per month. The Deputy Director cited the language on the JFS 01615 Approval for a State Subsidy form as the justification for lowering existing state subsidy payments, which states “the approval and continuation of the state adoption maintenance subsidy is contingent upon the availability of the funds.” The letter continues:

“The subsidy may be suspended or terminated in the event of a judicial, executive or legislative action suspending or terminating the authority of the agency to continue state adoption maintenance subsidy.” An Executive Order is expected to authorize emergency rules that lower the state adoption payment rates for both existing and future non IV-E subsidies.

Each adoptive family with a state adoption maintenance subsidy will receive written notification . Parents will have the opportunity to appeal the cut to their subsidy if they request a hearing within 15 days after receiving the notice. A timely request for a hearing would freeze the payment at its current rate, but the adoptive family would be subject to repaying the money if it lost the hearing.

Before deciding to appeal, parents should review the language on their subsidy agreement. Those children that were receiving more than $300 per month should also consider an appeal.