Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chapter 2, Part 10; A Sample Letter Proposing the Negotiation of Adoption Assistance with the County Agency

 NOTE: A foster to adopt parent recently told me that the generic sample letter was helpful as a guide in initiating the negotiation of adoption assistance. The post on level of care instruments will appear soon,

The sample letter below might serve as an example of a letter from parents to a county agency requesting a meeting to negotiate their child's or children's federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance.  The first part contains the pertinent state rule and federal policy issuances that lay out the criteria for negotiation.  The references to current state and federal policy may help to inform the county that you (the parents) have done your homework.

The second part in red offers examples of costs and concerns that parents might raise at the negotiation meeting.  The part in red is not meant to be all inclusive, but to throw out some ideas that can help parents customize the letter to address their own child's (or children's) needs, as well as their own family circumstances.  If the parents are adopting more than one child, the letter should include references to the needs of each child (present and anticipated) which are of the greatest concern,  Once the letter has been customized to reflect their individual situation, the parents can e-mail or send it to the county agency, while retaining a copy for themselves


Please consider this letter a request to discuss and negotiate __________'s  Title IV-E adoption assistance agreement.   As we begin such important discussion, it is important that we agree on the procedures and criteria for negotiation prescribed by federal and state law.  We are requesting a meeting or series of meetings to discuss monthly adoption payments that reflect the boys' current and anticipated needs in the context of our overall family situation.  As __________'s parents and the people who know them best, it is our responsibility to negotiate a plan of support that will supplement our other resources and better enable us to provide the experiences needed to foster their growth and development.   We can only accomplish that through direct discussions with you.

Negotiation Procedures and Criteria

As you know, Ohio Administrative Code Rule 5101:2-49-05(B), effective July 1, 2014, provides in pertinent part:

No income eligibility test shall be used when determining the monthly AA payment. The monthly AA payment amount should combine with the adoptive parent(s) resources and circumstances of the adoptive family and shall provide for the special and anticipated needs of the child projected over an extended period of time.  (Emphasis added).

Anticipated needs include the child's overall needs.  They are not limited to medical or mental health service costs.  (See reference to "ordinary needs" needs in the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual below).

This state adoption assistance rule and others is derived from the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual.  Section 8.2D.4 , Question 1 of the federal manual states:

Title IV-E adoption assistance is not based upon a standard schedule of itemized needs and countable income. Instead, the amount of the adoption assistance payment is determined through the discussion and negotiation process between the adoptive parents and a representative of the State agency based upon the needs of the child and the circumstances of the family. 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.

Two 2009 and one March 2011 Ohio administrative appeal decisions clarified and explained what is involved in consideration of the child’s needs and family circumstances as set forth in OAC rule 5101:2-49-05.  Each cited the language above from Section 8.2D.4 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual in upholding the adoptive parents’ appeals.  Administrative appeal decisions are reviews of state administrative hearings by ODJFS legal services staff.  [See Docket Number: AA-3952, Appeal No(s) 1477168 IVE), June 23, 2009; Docket Number: AA-4651, Appeal No(s) 1499112, December 3, 2009 and Docket Number AA-6365, Appeal No(s) 1586110, March 4, 2011].

In addressing the family circumstances, the administrative appeal decisions cited Question 3 in Section 8.2D.4 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual.

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. Families with the same incomes or in similar circumstances will not necessarily agree on identical types or amounts of assistance. The uniqueness of each child/family situation may result in different amounts of payment. Consistency is not the goal.

The Administrative Appeal Decisions were signed by the Head of the ODJFS Office of Legal Services as well as the reviewer.  From these rulings based upon the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual, it is clear that negotiation of a Title IV-E adoption assistance agreement should involve consideration of our child's anticipated needs and the their impact upon our family circumstances.  It is also clear that ODJFS has recognized the authority of the Child Welfare Policy Manual for years.

Anticipation of a Direct Discussion to Negotiate Adoption Assistance Agreements

The adoption assistance agreement form itself, JFS 01453, provides guidance on the kind of discussion that must take place.   Item 2 of the instructions on the Adoption Assistance form states: “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.” Item 3 stipulates, “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.”

Foster Care Rate

Federal Financial Participation in IV-E Adoption Assistance payments is available up to the foster care payment rate __________ would receive if he were in a foster home suitable to his level of care.  Currently, he receives _________ per month.

A Brief Statement of __________'s Needs and Our Family Circumstances

The quotes cited above make it clear that our priorities and concerns are a legitimate part of any negotiation of adoption assistance agreements.  As adoptive parents, we will have complete discretion over how we use the adoption assistance payments to benefit our children.  There is no list of acceptable and unacceptable activities and costs that may be considered in a discussion about the amount of adoption assistance as long as the purpose is designed to benefit the boys' healthy growth and development.

[Here add a statement discussing some of the major needs of the boys and expenses associated with meeting those needs.  You don't have to give specific figures.  Here are some examples. Chose the ones that apply to your situation]

The object of discussing and documenting family circumstances is to show the adjustments that your family must make in order to provide a stable, healthy home for a traumatized child or children, and how the accommodations have in turn limited the resources you have to carry on this crucial task. 

Therefore, families may cite a range of services, activities, costs and situations in negotiating an adoption assistance agreement.  Discussion and negotiation may include such topics as:

  • Loss of family income which results from a parent quitting outside employment or reduces hours to provide the intensive care the children need.  This is a common phenomenon in special needs adoptions.  The reduction in family income impacts the parents' capacity to provide for the child's needs.  Parents do not expect adoption assistance to come near to the cost of raising a special needs child. They realize that adoption assistance is a supplement that will not make up for a reduction income.  Adoption assistance, when combined with family resources can make a crucial difference in providing the services, activities and other experiences the child needs.
  • Activities, clubs, camps, sports, lessons and other experiences that serve a therapeutic purpose and are designed to socialize, to develop a sense of self-worth and other essential qualities.  Such experiences are particularly important for special needs children with traumatic backgrounds and emotional/behavior problems.  Once again, adoption assistance as a supplement to family resources may make a crucial difference in the adoptive parents' ability to provide important activities that are crucial to a special needs child's healthy growth and development.  You can include tutoring and other needs.

  • Therapies and services that may not be covered by family health insurance or Medicaid. Many therapists are not qualified to treat Reactive Attachment disorder and other serious emotional disorders found in adopted children.

  • Transportation costs - Adoptive parents often must travel long distances to find qualified providers.

  • Child care costs - In some cases, only trained providers can provide child care for special needs adopted children with severe emotional/behavior problems.

Note: You don't have to go into great detail.  If you want to attach an addendum with more detail then you can do that].

Adoption Assistance as a Supplement

We recognize that adoption assistance will not cover all of  __________'s needs and expenses.  Rather, it is a supplement designed to enable us to continue to make the sacrifices needed to ensure that they grow up a healthy and happy child in a permanent family.   We know that we share a common interest in the boys' welfare and am confident that we can negotiate an adoption assistance agreement that is consistent with their needs and our family circumstances.