Governor Kasich's budget calls for a reduction in the state participation rate in Title IV-E adoption assistance from $250 to $230. If eventually passed, state matching funds would be available up to an adoption assistance payment of $230 per month instead of $250. We are not sure what the federal financial participation rate will be as of July 1, 2011, but it will be at least 60% of the total adoption assistance payment, probably a bit more. County agencies would continue to be responsible for the non-federal portion for each dollar of a monthly adoption assistance payment over $230 per month, instead of $250 per month. Even at 40%, the additional cost to the county of the $20 reduction in the state's financial participation rate would be $8 per month. Federal financial participation will continue to be available up the level of support a child would receive if he or she were placed in a foster home suitable to their level of care.
The above provision is part of the Governor's proposed budget. It is not law. The Ohio General Assembly must take up the proposed legislation and we will try and track it. If the reduction of the state's financial participation rate should be reduced from a maximum of $250 to a maximum of $230, don't forget, that until recently, the state's financial participation rate was limited to adoption assistance payment rates of $240 or less from September 2008 until June 2010, so the change, while regrettable is not that dramatic.
County agencies learned during the last budget go round in 2008, that they cannot unilaterally reduce existing adoption assistance payments. Adoption assistance agreements may not be modified without the consent of the adoptive parents. Following the last state biennium budget, county agencies were forced to resort to "requests" that adoptive parents voluntarily agree to a modification of their existing adoption assistance agreements in order to lower payments. Some agencies resorted to devious tactics in trying to persuade adoptive parents to accept decreases.
It is important to remember two things:
1. Reductions in existing adoption assistance agreements cannot be imposed by county agencies. Reductions can only be made with the consent of the adoptive family. Agencies may propose a reduction, but if parents appeal by requesting a hearing, the existing adoption assistance payment rate remains in place until the hearing process is completed. In any hearing, the burden would fall heavily on the agency to show by a preponderance of evidence that a decrease in adoption assistance was justified by positive changes in the child's needs and/or family circumstances. This burden is very difficult to meet. County agencies rarely even try to force a reduction in adoption assistance through the hearing process. I am not aware of any attempt that has succeeded.
Ultimately, the decision to accept a "voluntary" reduction in adoption assistance is up to the individual adoptive family. If you conclude that it is in your child's best interest to retain the existing adoption assistance payment, then reject any request for a reduction without guilt. Please do not be drawn in by attempts to shame you into submission. Your responsibility is to your special needs children. You have no control over agency budget decisions or negotiations involving other children's adoption assistance agreements. Do not make any decisions based on apocalyptic predictions of bad things happening to future adoptive families. Such claims are often exaggerated and misleading. Predictions that the Title IV-E adoption assistance program may be abolished if you do not acquiesce, for example, are nonsense.
2. The rules, policies and procedures pertaining to the negotiation of adoption assistance agreements will not change. Parents will retain their due process rights to negotiate adoption assistance agreements and to appeal. Agencies will still be required to negotiate adoption assistance agreements based upon the child's needs and family circumstances.
Although I have sympathy for the tight budgets of county agencies, I would be more moved by their plight if they didn't propose adoption assistance payments that were so far below the level of support received by the child in his or her foster home. Given the fact that a majority of special needs children are adopted by their foster parents, it has always appeared to be a bit disingenuous to argue that a child with the same needs being adopted by foster parents with the same family circumstances should receive a monthly adoption assistance payment that is hundreds of dollars less that the child's monthly foster care payment.
Let me know if you have questions. You can contact me by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 614-299-0177.