Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chapt 2, Part 7 Negotiation: More Practical Questions

NEXT: A Modest Change in Federal Financial Participation in Adoption Assistance Payments, effective October 1, 2014.


The county agency sends me a form that is intended to determine the amount of adoption assistance my child will receive.  The form focuses on how much we spend per month on various services to treat my son’s developmental, mental health and learning problems.  The form also asks us how many miles we drive to providers of these services.  The form does not address any of our biggest concerns, the main reasons why we need adoption assistance.

Apparently, we are to fill out the form and submit it to the county agency.  An agency committee will then decide the amount of adoption assistance my son will receive.  How can we respond in a way that that reflects our concerns and reasons for seeking adoption assistance?

If the agency form focuses too narrowly on treatments to address medical, developmental or other special needs conditions, omits other needs or concern to the adopting parents or ignores issues pertaining to family circumstances, the parents may do the following:

Write “See Addendum” on the form and on separate pieces of papers, write about your children's needs, expenses and factors relating to family circumstances that you have determined are important to providing a permanent family which will maximize your children’s growth and development.  Include factors, concerns and needs that are important to you, confident that they are valid parts of the negotiation of adoption assistance.  For example:

Loss of family income which results from a parent quitting a job or choosing not to work outside the home.  Agencies sometimes reject this family circumstance, by dismissing it as “life style” choice. One would think that the decision to remain in the home in order to provide more intensive care is in the children’s best interest and that the agency would approve of the parents’ dedication.  Adoption assistance will not match the compensation from most outside employment. As a supplement it can help the parents to continue the economic sacrifice on behalf of their children.  Loss of income is clearly within the realm of family circumstances and a valid topic for negotiation.   

Fixed Income: This family circumstance primarily affects older adoptive parents who adopt relatively young children. As we saw in the previous post, anticipated needs is a legitimate topic for the negotiation of adoption assistance. Older adoptive parents may legitimately introduce concerns about their ability to address anticipated needs on a fixed income, as well as any identified health concerns that might affect their capacity to meet the children’s immediate and anticipated needs.

 Activities, clubs, camps, sports, lessons and other experiences that serve a therapeutic, social or developmental purpose: Adoptive parents, often in consultation with pediatricians or therapists may conclude that certain activities may play a crucial role in the child’s development.  It is important to note that the parents are not asking for a specific amount of adoption assistance to pay for specific activities,  Rather, they are identifying children’s needs. An adequate amount of adoption assistance, combined with the family’s resources can enable them to provide important experiences that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Therapies and services that may not be covered by family health insurance or Medicaid:  The agency may insist that the adoptive family apply for the state Post  after finalization.  Given that the initial adoption assistance agreement is to be completed before the final decree of adoption, therapies and services are valid topics for negotiation.

Child Care costs for hard to care for children:  
These are a few examples of legitimate topics for negotiation.  There are no invalid topics if they affect the adoptive parents’ capacity to meet the children’s needs and provide a loving and stable family. State your concerns and reasons for seeking an adequate amount of adoption assistance, whatever they may be. 

If you need a larger car because you are adopting a sibling group into a family with other children, feel free to bring it up. You are not asking for adoption assistance to pay for a car. You are saying that the increase in the size of your family requires that you look for a larger vehicle.  You will rely primarily on your own resources to purchase a larger care, but an adequate amount of adoption assistance may help you to acquire a car without sacrificing other essential needs.

Communicate your concerns and reasons for seeking adoption assistance on the “Addendum” to the agency form if the form does not address your interests. If the agency tells you that adoption assistance cannot be used to support your stated in needs, cite the federal and state policy interpretations  in the posts immediately preceding this one. You can also contact Dan Shook, the adoption assistance policy chief at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services at Dan.Shook@jfs.ohio.gov.

Attach the Addendum to the agency forms with supporting documentation from the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual and states regulations at 5101:2-49.  Use the "Addendum" and the citations to federal and state policy in your negotiations with the agency.

Practical Hint: Have an amount of adoption assistance in mind, or at least a range of monthly adoption assistance payments that you believe will provide an adequate amount of adoption assistance, when combined with your family resources.  Depending on your knowledge of the agency personnel, you can start with a specific amount, perhaps the child's foster care rate.  Or, you can wait until you hear a proposal from the agency before proposing a specific amount. 

If the agency proposes an amount that is clearly inadequate, it is a good idea to say that you need to go home and consider the offer.  Don't accept the first offer, if it is too low. Always express a willingness to continue negotiation. Use the time in between meetings to consider what your bottom line is and perhaps to consult with other parents od advocates.