Friday, September 5, 2014

Chapter 2, Part 2. Limits on Adoption Assistance

Next: Monday, September 8, 2014.   The ODJFS Letter Announcing the Maximum Statewide Adoption Assistance Payment Rate for this State Fiscal Year, Beginning on July 1, 2014.

What is the limit on the amount of adoption assistance? 

In accordance with federal law, in practical terms, the child’s foster home payment rate is the limit on adoption assistance. 

The foster care rate is a changing standard.  If the child is in an adoptive home, it is the rate a child would receive were he or she placed in a foster home suitable to their level of care today.  A child's level of care, may change significantly over time.  So, the applicable foster care rate is payment the child would receive at present, not the payment the child received when he or she was in foster care prior to the adoption.  

For example, suppose a child was receiving a foster care payment of $500 per month at the age of four, the age at which her adoption was finalized.  After three years, she develops serious learning and emotional problems, raising her level of care.  A more specialized foster care rate a child of 7 with her level of care would be $900 per month.  As we will see, adoptive parents may ask for a modification of their children's adoption assistance agreement at any time.  If they requested a modification of the daughter's adoption assistance agreement at age ten, they could negotiate a new adoption payment of up to $900 per month.  

How does the child's foster care payment rate serve as a practical maximum rate for adoption assistance?

The foster care payment rate functions as a practical maximum because it is the limit of Federal Financial Participation (FFP).  Above that amount county agencies would have to pay 100% of the cost.  

The foster payment rate is specific to the individual child and includes specialized foster care payment rates (therapeutic, treatment, medically fragile). 

Does the foster home payment rate include the administrative costs paid to private agency foster care providers that provide foster homes through contracts with public county agencies (PCSAs)?

No, the applicable foster care payment rate with respect to limits on adoption assistance is the payment the foster parents receive or would receive on behalf of the child for the cost of care.

How does the Statewide Adoption Assistance Maximum Payment affect the limit on adoption assistance? 

The statewide maximum adoption assistance payment of $1,045 per month does not affect the negotiation of adoption assistance payments in cases where the foster care payment is or would be lower that the statewide maximum.  The rules and policies governing negotiation apply as they always have. 

Let us suppose that a child's foster home rate was $800 per month prior to the adoption.  The maximum adoption assistance rate that the adopting parents could expect to negotiate would be $800 per month. 

What if the child's foster care rate is higher than that statewide adoption assistance maximum of $1,045 per month for SSY 2015 (July, 2014 - June 30, 2015)?

 The statewide maximum adoption assistance rate affects the negotiation of adoption assistance on behalf of children with relatively high levels of care.  Suppose a child was in some form of therapeutic foster home in which the foster parents received $1,600 per month for the child's care.  The statewide maximum would limit adoption assistance payments to no more than $1,045 per month, unless the county agency requests and receives a waiver from ODJFS.

In an earlier post, we cited one adoptive family who entered an agreement for adoption assistance at the child's foster care rate of over $1,400 because the county agency requested a waiver.  In cases, where there is an important disparity between the child's foster care payment rate and the statewide maximum adoption assistance payment, parents should assertively attempt to negotiate the county's request for a waiver if the state maximum is inadequate.  

If the county requests and obtains a waiver, it is not required to match the child's foster care rate, but to negotiate an amount of adoption assistance greater than the statewide maximum up to the child's foster care rate.  If a child was receiving $1,600 per month in foster care payments, the negotiation for adoption assistance would consider payments between the statewide maximum of $1,045 per month and $1,600.

May foster parents continue to receive foster care payments while they are negotiating an adoption assistance agreement with the county agency?

Yes, OAC rule 5101:2-49-08(D) states:

“Before the date on which the child is placed for adoption, the PCSA shall inform the certified foster caregiver(s) who is receiving foster care payments for the care of the child, of the option to continue the foster care payments until the adoption is finalized.”