Thursday, October 21, 2021

Negotiation Scenarios: Adoption Assistance for High Need Foster Children

 

Scenario 2:  Foster parents are in the process of adopting their foster child.  The child receives a specialized (therapeutic) monthly foster care maintenance payment that reflects her extraordinary level of care.  The child is eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance.  The agency proposes an adoption assistance payment that is less than half of the foster care rate.  The foster mother has quit her job in order to devote full time to the child’s extensive care needs. 

 

The agency tells the parents that, in addition to the adoption assistance payment, they can apply for funds through the Post Adoption Special Services Subsidy (PASSS) program and other county based developmental disabilities and mental health services to address the child’s special needs.  Is the agency’s position consistent with federal and state policy for negotiation adoption assistance?

 

No, not without a number of additional conditions.  In the first place, there is nothing in federal law that requires, parents to explore other programs or services as a condition for negotiating an adoption assistance payment.  If the agency proposes PASSS or other services as substitutes for a larger adoption assistance payment, the adoptive parents might find the proposal acceptable under the following conditions.  

 

The identified services are covered by PASSS funding

  

The identified services meet the care needs of their child.  The agency confirms in writing that PASSS funding will be available for the identified services after the adoption is finalized.  The PASSS program, by definition, cannot be utilized under after the adoption is finalized. 

 

The identified services will be available when they are needed at times and locations that are reasonably convenient to the adoptive family.  

 

If the above conditions are not met, the agency agrees to negotiate an additional amount of adoption assistance that, combined with the adoptive parents' resources, will enable the adoptive family to pay for the identified services.

 

Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Agreements may be customized.  Conditions may be added to reflect the particular needs of the child and circumstances of the individual parents.  The adoption assistance agreement is intended to provide the parents with a support plan after the final decree of adoption.  Before accepting PASSS funds and other service programs as a substitute for a higher adoption assistance payment, the adoption assistance agreement must ensure the services conform to the conditions cited above.  If one or more of the conditions are not met for a particular needed service, the adoption assistance agreement should contain the agency’s written guarantee that it will help cover the service with an increase in monthly adoption assistance of a least X dollars per month. 

 

Author’s Note 💀:  In cases involving children with extraordinary levels of care who receive comparatively high foster care maintenance payments of $1,200 to $2,500 per month, agencies frequently attempt to drastically reduce the level of support through adoption assistance by proposing the use of PASSS and other service programs as alternatives to higher adoption assistance payments. 

Typically, the agency provides no guarantee that PASSS funds will be available, that the programs and services will be available, accessible and actually address the child’s needs.  In addition, there is no commitment to increasing adoption assistance payments if needed services are not readily available.  

The attempt to substitute other programs and services for an adequate adoption assistance payment without a clear commitment from the county agency to ensure that the child’s needs are met is a violation of the federal negotiation requirements by placing the burden on the adoptive parents to meet their children’s service needs without any help from the agency.

 

 

 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Negotiation Scenarios What Costs May Be Considered in Negotiating Adoption Assistance

 

Consistent with federal policy, the negotiation process challenges the parents and agency to come to a good faith agreement on the following overriding question.  Given the parent’s circumstances, along with the child’s ordinary and special needs, how much monthly supplemental support is sufficient to enable the successful incorporation of the child into a permanent, loving family?  Pretty wordy question, Dr. Know It All, but that is the mindset implied by the policy language.

 

Scenario 1:  Foster parents are in the process of adopting their special needs foster child, who is eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance.  The child’s therapist agrees that soccer and a special summer camp, would provide positive therapeutic experiences.  The child’s teacher also recommends additional tutoring to help address the child’s learning problems.  None of the desired programs are publicly funded.  The adoptive mother quit her job in order to provide more extensive care for her child.  The parents propose a monthly adoption assistance payment that helps them cover the cost of the programs while still providing for the daily needs necessary for maintaining the child in a permanent family.  The parents' includes consideration of the adjustments necessitated by the adoptive mother's decision to quit her job and devote her time to caregiving. Is the parents' proposal consistent with federal and state policy?

 

Yes.  The parent’s circumstances are affected by the decision of the adoptive mother to quit her job.  The parents are proposing an adoption assistance agreement that will help them provide important services that address the child’s special needs, while enabling them to cover ordinary needs essential for providing a stable home.  Leaving employment outside the home to care for a special needs child is an important example of parent or family “circumstances.”  The parents are not requesting that adoption assistance cover any particular special or ordinary need.  Rather, they are asking that adoption assistance serve as a supplemental source of support that will enable them to provide for the child’s ordinary as well as special needs.

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Negotiation: Policy into Practice

 What statewide practices and procedures for negotiating Title IV-E Adoption Assistance can be derived from federal law and policy?

 

A. A Change in Philosophy.  County agencies and adoptive parents should share the same goals with respect to negotiating adoption assistance.  That is, to support the child’s incorporation into a permanent family.  By the time negotiations begin, the eligible child has been categorized as a special needs child.  Instead of assuming a gatekeeper role with the objective of providing a minimal amount of adoption assistance, federal policy anticipates that public agencies will focus on how they can support the establishment of the child in a healthy family.  A number of other principles follow.

Practices Consistent with Federal and State Policy

1. The agency should treat the adoptive parents as partners during the negotiation process.    

The agency has assessed the parents and approved them as an adoptive home before negotiations begin.  The agency should keep in mind that the parents are responsible for the child’s care.  Instead of citing the parents’ responsibilities for raising the child as a reason why the parents should ask for as little support as possible, agencies should encourage the parents to tell their story about why they need adoption assistance.  

Practices Consistent with Federal and State Policy 

2.    Listen to the adoptive parents and trust their experiences in caring for the child.  After speaking with hundreds of adoptive parents over the years, I have found that their hopes and concerns inevitably fall into the categories of the child’s needs and the parent’s particular circumstances.  Take seriously the adoptive parent’s concerns and plans for the child.      

What is the Common Practice Among Ohio Counties?   

 

Agencies treat adoptive parents as “applicants” instead of partners.  This reflects a failure to recognize the difference between adoption assistance and other benefit programs.  Other benefits programs have no provision for negotiations because the amount and type of assistance is defined, based on an income means test.  Agencies frequently approach the adoptive parents’ proposals for adoption assistance with skepticism.  This, in spite of the fact that the agency has approved their desirability as caregivers again and again and the vast majority of adoptive parents have cared for the child as foster parents for at least two years

 

Practice Consistent with Federal and State Policy 

 

3. Use the knowledge accumulated during the child’s time in foster care in negotiating adoption assistance.  Over 70% of children in Ohio’s public foster care system are adopted by their foster parents.  By the time, the agency is engaged with the foster/adoptive parents in the negotiation of adoption assistance, the agency is well aware of the child’s needs and the parent’s circumstances.

  

What is the Common Practice Among Ohio Counties?  

  

The agency’s knowledge of the needs of the foster child and circumstances of the foster parents prior to the initiation of adoption proceedings is not an integral part of the negotiation process.  It is common for agencies to insist that adoption imposes more responsibility on foster parents, when they become adoptive parents. 

 

While this is true in a legal sense, it has no bearing on the issues that may be considered during the negotiation of adoption assistance.  In most cases, the child’s needs and parents’ (family’s) circumstances are pretty much the same after the formal transition from foster care to adoption.

 

Practice Consistent with Federal and State Policy 

4. In requesting additional information, the agency should explain clearly what additional information and/or documentation they seek and in what form.  For example, is a letter from an important medical or health care provider sufficient, and, if so, what should it say?

 What is the Common Practice Among Ohio Counties?

Agencies often fail to inform the parents about the specific type and content of information or documentation that would help the agency to take a more informed position in the negotiation of adoption assistance.

Practice Consistent with Federal and State Policy

5.  The adoptive parent’s submission of information and documentation should be the basis for the discussion and negotiation to follow.  It does not substitute for the discussion and negotiation between the agency and adoptive parents. 

What is the Common Practice Among Ohio Counties?

It is common for agencies to collect information and pass it on to a committee or agency administrator to propose a specific amount of adoption assistance without any direct discussion with the adoptive parents.  This practice is inconsistent with federal and state law.