Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Flooding Low Paying Counties with Requests for Amendments to Adoption Assistance Agreements

In speaking with adoptive families and their advocates, it appears that a number of public county agencies in Ohio have persuaded parents to accept less than $250 per month in Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Payments.  This practice is reprehensible for at least two reasons.

1Federal and state funds cover the entire cost of monthly adoption assistance payments up to $250.  The county pays nothing.  Federal funds cover 62.32% of any additional adoption assistance payments above $250, while the county is responsible for 37.63% of the cost. See October 4, 2016 blog post entitled Federal, State and County Participation Rates, Beginning October 1, 2016.   

2. $250 is an insufficient amount of support for adoptive families with special needs children.  The most recent survey of Ohio County foster care rates published in Family, Children and Adult Services Procedure Letter No. 312, September 23, 2016, shows that $250 is more than the $100 less than the lowest monthly foster care rate in the state!! In many cases, it is hundreds of dollars below county foster care rates. 

A Modest Proposal

I suggest that adoptive parents receiving Title IV-E monthly adoption assistance payments of $250 or less, consult with other families in similar situations and submit requests for amendments to their children’s adoption assistance agreements all at the same time.  If the low paying counties along with the state mediation and hearing systems are flooded with petitions and appeals for amendments increasing adoption assistance payments, perhaps this current travesty will get the attention it deserves. 

Some families will be hesitant because they fear retribution.  The county agency, for instance, might refuse to place additional foster or adoptive children with them.  I am not suggesting that families place themselves at risk.  On the other hand, many adoptive families have nothing to lose by requesting amendments to their children’s adoption assistance agreements.
  • Such a request can be made at any time.  It is not necessary to wait until some annual redetermination of eligibility.
  • The county agency must respond.    If the agency does not respond within 30 days of receiving the request, the parents may request state mediation or a hearing due to lack of promptness.
  • Requests can be made simply by submitting an e-mail to the agency.  There is no set form or format.  A parent, for example, might say the following:

I am writing to request meeting to negotiate an amendment to my child’s (or children’s) adoption assistance agreement and an increase in his/her/their adoption assistance payments. The payment, when combined with our family resources, is not sufficient to meet _______ ‘s current and anticipated needs and is inconsistent with our family circumstances.
  • The agency not only must respond, but must negotiate with the family based upon a consideration of the child’s needs and family circumstances. 
  • After submitting the request, parents should prepare to emphasize changes in their children’s needs and or their family circumstances since the initial agreement.  According to Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rule 5101:2-49-12
Any request for an amendment to the AA agreement must contain newly documented special needs or circumstances of the adoptive parent(s) that were not previously subject to the current agreement.

  • Parents might also contend that they were not informed about the opportunity to negotiate an adequate adoption assistance payment prior to finalization.  If a family was coerced by threats of placing their children with another family, they might also mention any threats or acts of intimidation.   

 A growing number of county agencies have implemented the quaint practice of announcing that all adoption assistance negotiations begin at zero.  Tactically, that enables an agency to argue that by agreeing to raise the amount from say $200 a month to $225 to $250 that it is engaging in good faith negotiation. The major flaw in this ploy is that $250 per month has functioned as a practical minimum payment for adoption assistance for over three decades.