Sunday, July 19, 2015

Chapt 2, Part 6 Negotiation; Practical Questions

The next Blog will continue the discussion below on Practical Negotiation Issues

Is the county required to enter into a discussion with us?

Yes.  Items 2 and 3 of Section IV of the state Adoption Assistance Agreement form (JFS 01453) state:

The agency has discussed the child’s existing and anticipated emotional, medical, mental, developmental or physical problems in light of the child’s family background and medical history.

The agency and the adoptive parent(s) have had an extensive discussion about the child’s present and future service needs and the adoptive parent's/parents' ability to incorporate the child into the adoptive family and to meet the child’s needs.

Section 8.2D.4, Questions 1 and 3 of the Federal Child Welfare Policy Manual, specify that

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 also Ohio rule 5101:2-49-05.

Negotiation means an exchange of views.  A process in which the agency determines the issues that may be considered, defines the information the parents must submit and uses the information to determine the amount of assistance without discussing the concerns of the parents is an approval model, not a negotiation. As such, it is contrary to federal and state law.

 May the county agency base the amount of adoption assistance entirely on consideration costs directly associated with treatment of my child’s special needs? 
No.  The county may not limit negotiation to the cost of treating the child's special needs if the parents have other concerns.  Section 8.2D.4, Question 1 of the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual  states:

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.

 Question 3 of Section 8.2D.4 in the Child Welfare Policy Manual states:

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. 

See also, Items 2 and 3 of Section IV of the state Adoption Assistance Agreement form (JFS 01453).
What if the County Agency refuses to accept the provisions of the Child Welfare Policy Manual as authoritative interpretation of state and federal law?

You can cite the federal Children’s Bureau Website

The Child Welfare Policy Manual contains mandatory policies that are based in federal law and/or program regulations. It also provides interpretations of federal laws and program regulations initiated by inquiries from state and tribal child welfare agencies or ACF Regional Offices.

Then, you can ask the agency to contact Dan Shook, Chief of Adoption Assistance Policy at ODJFS at  Mr. Shook will tell them that the Child Welfare Policy Manual is an authoritative interpretation of federal and state law. He will also agree that the state uses the federal manual in crafting state adoption assistance regulations.

With respect to adoption assistance, are there “acceptable” and “unacceptable” items, services and costs? 
No.  Section 8.2D.1 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual stipulates

Once the adoption assistance agreement is signed and the child is adopted, the adoptive parents are free to make decisions about expenditures on behalf of the child without further agency approval or oversight. Hence, once an adoption assistance agreement is in effect, the parents can spend the subsidy in any way they see fit to incorporate the child into their lives. Since there is no itemized list of approved expenditures for adoption assistance, the State cannot require an accounting for the expenditures.

Note: There is no itemized list of approved expenditures.  Parents may legitimately contend that the adoption assistance is not for any one particular purpose.  Rather, the adoption assistance, when combined with family resources, will enable the parents to provide experiences, services and other things they have determined are important the child’s growth and development that they would not be able to provide without assistance.