Sunday, July 19, 2015

Chapter 2, Part 1 Negotiation of Adoption Assistance Agreements: Some Basics

Next: Friday, September 5, Part 2 Limits on Adoption Assistance and the Statewide Maximum Adoption Assistance payment

Chapter 2 addresses the amount of adoption assistance and how it is determined.  On July 1, 2014, amendments to Ohio's Title IV-E adoption assistance program went into effect.  Given that IV-E adoption assistance is a federal program, most provisions of the program remain the same.  The most far reaching and problematic is a provision which would establishes a statewide maximum adoption assistance payment.  Family, Children and Adult Services Procedure Letter No. 262, dated June 26, 2014, specifies that statewide adoption assistance maximum is $1,045 per month.

As we will see, county agencies may ask for a waiver to increase the amount of adoption assistance in cases where the child's foster home payment rate exceeds the statewide maximum adoption assistance payment.

Negotiating the Amount of Adoption Assistance

Federal Title IV-E adoption assistance is different from other benefit programs in that

1. Eligibility and the amount of adoption assistance are two separate but related steps,

2. Adoption assistance is determined through negotiation.

 NOTE: Click on links to go to the relevant section of the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual.

How is the Amount of Adoption Assistance Determined?

Adoption Assistance is determined through Negotiation of a written agreement based upon the needs of the child and circumstances of the family.

Source: Federal Child Welfare Policy Manual, Section 8.2D.4, Questions 1 and 3.

“Title IV-E is not based upon a standard schedule of itemized needs and countable income.“

“The amount of the adoption assistance payment is determined through the discussion and negotiation process . . . . Based upon the needs of the child and the circumstances of the family.”  See Ohio rule 5101:2-49-05

How are “needs” defined?

“The payment that is agreed upon should combine with the parents' resources to cover the ordinary and special needs of the child projected over an extended period of time and should cover anticipated needs, e.g., child care.   Anticipation and discussion of these needs are part of the negotiation of the amount of the adoption assistance payment.”

Source: Child Welfare Policy Manual, Section 8.2D.4, And See Ohio rule 5101:2-49-05

How are “circumstances of the family” defined?

“During the negotiation of an adoption assistance agreement, it is important to keep in mind that the circumstances of the adopting parents and the needs of the child must be considered together. The overall ability of a singular family to incorporate an individual child into the household is the objective. “

Source: Child Welfare Policy Manual, Section 8.2D.4, And See Ohio rule 5101:2-49-05

What are some possible examples of needs and family circumstances?

Loss of family income which results from a parent quitting outside employment or reducing hours to provide the intensive care the children need.

Activities, clubs, camps, sports, lessons and other experiences that serve a therapeutic, social or developmental purpose.

Therapies and services that may not be covered by family health insurance or Medicaid.

Child Care costs for hard to care for children.

Is there a list of acceptable and unacceptable expenses, costs, services, activities that apply to adoption assistance?

There are no acceptable or unacceptable categories for which adoption assistance may be used.  Adoptive parents have complete discretion to decide how adoption assistance will be used on behalf of their child.

How do adopting parents decide what to discuss with the agency during negotiations?

Trust your judgment. 

You already know why you want adoption assistance and what needs and circumstances you want to address.

Your concerns invariably fit within the categories of child’s needs and family circumstances.

Why is it useful to think of adoption assistance as a supplement?

When combined with family resources, adoption assistance enables adoptive parents to provide experiences, services and items for the benefit of their child, which they might otherwise be unable to afford.

It’s sort of like extra income from a part-time job, modest but often essential. If you think of it this way, you are not telling the agency that the adoption assistance is set aside for a particular service, activity, or expense that would benefit your child. 

Rather, you are saying that your child has certain needs you want to address and the additional support from adoption assistance combined with your own resources will better enable you to obtain the services or activities or items.