Monday, September 14, 2009

Crawford County Threatens to Cut Title IV-E Existing Adoption Assistance Payments and Stop Negotiating Future Adoption Assistance Agreements

Crawford County has sent letters adoptive families with Title IV-E adoption Assistance essentially informing them they may receive a $60 per month cut in their children’s adoption assistance payments in the wake of the state’s reduced financial participation in the federal Title IV-E adoption assistance program from monthly payments of up to $300 to monthly payments of $240. Taking a page out Lorain County’s play book, Crawford also asks adoptive parents to sign an amended IV-E adoption assistance agreement. (See a copy of the letter below). Finally, the agency signals that it might be able to negotiate future adoption assistance payments over $240 per month.

The letter, after apologetically requesting that parents voluntarily absorb the reduction in adoption assistance ends by stating “This modification may be reflected in your October 2009 check.” Further, “If you do not agree to do this reduction, you do have the right to appeal this to the State;. . .” I urge parents to respond. Unless they wish a reduction in their child’s Title IV-E adoption assistance payments, I strongly recommend:

a. Do not sign the amended adoption assistance agreement.

b. Write the agency an e-mail, stating clearly, “I do not consent to any reduction in ______ Title IV-E adoption assistance because it would be contrary to his/her welfare and would not reflect his/her needs or our family circumstances."

c. Support your objection to any reductions with the arguments below.

Errors? Let Us Count Them

1. The County agencies have already been informed that federal law forbids them to automatically and unilaterally reduced existing adoption assistance payments. The Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) citing Section 8.2A of the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual the policy informed the counties that they were not authorized to cut existing adoption assistance payments without the consent of the adoptive families.

2. Adoptive families receiving this letter are under no obligation to respond unless they receive a formal notification of a reduction in benefits. Since Crawford County may not realize this, parents are urged to respond with the points cited here.

3. State administrative hearings are based on a denial of benefits. There are no grounds for a hearing. If Crawford County attempts to reduce special needs children’s adoption assistance benefits, they must send individual families written notification, citing what assistance is being denied, the reasons, the applicable laws or regulations, along with information on requesting a hearing. Once again, I am curious as to what grounds and rules the agency would cite in support of its proposed actions.
Section 8.2A of the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual clearly indicates that budget problems are not sufficient grounds for automatically reducing IV-E adoption assistance payments. OAC 5101:2-49-12(B) states in pertinent part “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.”

4. The proposed cut of $60 per month in adoption assistance does not reflect the actual loss to the county agency. The federal financial participation rate in IV-E adoption assistance has risen from 60% to 68.34% of the cost of monthly adoption assistance payments.

The state and counties’ participation rates in providing non federal matching funds has fallen from 40% to 31.66% of the cost. The cost to the county for the recent reduction in the state’s financial participation rate from monthly adoption assistance payments of up to $300 to payments of up to $240 is approximately $20 per month. The county’s non federal share for every dollar over $240 per month is actually lower than it was a year ago.68.34% of the $60 dollars is federal money.

5. If a county agency proposes reductions and force adoptive parents to appeal, the county will lose, embarrass itself and incur a considerable amount of ill will.

6. Crawford County has an obligation under federal and state law to negotiate future Title IV-E adoption assistance agreements based up a consideration of the needs of the child and circumstances of the adoptive family. Counties have no authority to simply declare “ I will not negotiate.”

Crawford County Letter

Thomas M. O'leary, Director
Income Maintenance * Workforce Development * Child Support Enforcement * Children

Crawford County Job and
Family Services
224 Norton Way
Bucyrus, Ohio 44820

Crawford County Children
865 Harding Way West
Galion, Ohio 44833

As you may be aware, the State of Ohio has made significant budget cuts which
have impacted many programs and services. These cuts included several
sources of adoption funding and subsidies, as well as overall funding to county
Job & Family Services Departments. Crawford County Department of Job &
Family Services cannot make up for the loss of the state's support for adoption
Subsidies. We find ourselves in the difficult position of needing to renegotiate all
of the county's adoption subsidy agreements.

The notice we sent on 8/14/09 was sent in error and it only pertained to the Stated
Adoption Maintenance Program (SAMS). At this time we are requesting a renegotiation
of your Title IV-E Adoption Subsidy.

It has never been this agency's desire to cut the adoption subsidies which help
families to meet their child's special needs. However, the current economic
situation has hit everyone, including state and local government offices. Your
adoption worker negotiated your subsidy amount with you in good faith,
understanding that your child has specific special needs. Crawford County
Department of Job & Family Services agreed to that amount believing that the
state and federal governments would continue to provide their financial backing
for this program. The state's recent actions have made it clear that this agency
is vulnerable in ways not previously anticipated.

Since the state has indicated that it will provide $240 towards each Adoption
Assistance Agreement, we are sending you anew Adoption Assistance
Agreement form and a new IV-E Adoption Assistance Continuing Eligibility
Determination form. The new agreement form reflects a reduction in state
support. Whether or not you have already returned the form sent earlier this
month, we ask you to review this form. If you are willing to accept the revised
change to your child's monthly subsidy, please sign both forms where they are
highlighted, and return the forms in the envelope provided.

This month, your child's total subsidy amount was ______. You will receive
your subsidy a little different now that the State has reduced the amount they
are paying. You will receive a check with the reduced amount from the State and
a check from our county auditors. You may receive a W-9 in this letter for
payments made by our county if we do not have one on file for your family.
We regret the need to request any concessions from the adoptive families that
we know are working hard to meet their children's regular and often very special
needs. We do not take this action lightly.

If we do not find a way to get current costs under control, we may not be able to negotiate anything higher than the state's new base rate with new adoptive families, regardless of the severity of their children's special needs. Your help now may help us find homes in the future for children with special needs.

This modification may be reflected in your October 2009 check. If you accept the
suggested modification, (Child’s Name ) total subsidy amount will be ($60 less).
If you do not agree to do this reduction, you do have the right to appeal this to the
State; please call Sue Bauer at 419-468-3255 at ext. 250.
Sue Bauer
Foster Care/Adoption Coordinator