Friday, August 13, 2021

Child's Needs and Family's/Parents' Circumstances, What Does that Mean in Negotiating Adoption Assistance?

 What does it mean to consider the child's needs and the parents'/family's circumstances in negotiating an agreement for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance?

Federal and state law have always required that the child’s needs and parent’s circumstances be considered in reaching an agreement for monthly adoption assistance.  Section 8.2D.4, Question 1 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual, stipulates, “the amount of the adoption assistance payment is  

determined through the discussion and negotiation process between the adoptive parents and a representative of the title IV-E 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.  (Emphasis added).

What can we conclude from the above quote?

a.       Adoption assistance is a supplement to be combined with the parent’s resources.


b.      As a supplement, adoption assistance is intended to become a part of the adoptive family’s overall budget.


c.       Incorporating and sustaining a child in a permanent family includes the challenge of meeting “ordinary and special needs” and “anticipated” as well as current needs.  This guidance makes sense because it addresses the overall concerns of parents raising a child.


d.      Adoption assistance is not intended to cover specified categories of expenses like other federal and state benefit programs.  Adoption assistance has a broader purpose.  What kind of supplemental support will enable you, to provide a family for this special needs child?  Addressing this question obviously includes consideration of the child’s ordinary daily needs.

What does consideration of the child’s needs and parent’s circumstances together mean? 

The discussion of a child’s ordinary and special needs takes us to the consideration of the parent’s (family’s) circumstances.  What does that mean?  Let us examine a second provision, appearing in Question 3 of Section 8.2.D.4 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual dealing the negotiation of adoption assistance

 Question 3 in Section 8.2D.4 the federal manual, emphasizes the inclusion of the adoptive parent’s (family’s) circumstances as part of the negotiation of an agreement for a monthly adoption assistance payment.  ”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.

 This last point is particularly applicable to Ohio, which has no uniform statewide foster care or adoption assistance payment rate schedules.  As we will explain, the “Maximum Statewide Adoption Assistance Payment” of $1,166 per month is not a statewide adoption assistance payment schedule in any normal sense of the term. As discussed previously, the child's foster care payment rate sets the maximum amount of monthly adoption assistance

 O.K., O'Hanlon, Dr. Know It All, what are some conclusions we can glean from your boring presentation?

Here are a few.

1.      The adoptive parents and public agency should negotiate with a common goal clearly in mind, namely, “The overall ability of a singular family to incorporate an individual child into the household.”  


2.      The circumstances of the specific family provides the context for discussion of how the ordinary and special needs of the child can be addressed.


3.      Federal and state law prohibit the use of an income means test to determine the amount of adoption assistance.


4.      It follows then, that the parent’s (family’s) circumstances include consideration of adjustments and sacrifices the parents make to incorporate and sustain a child in a nurturing family. Some of the more obvious ones are:


·         Giving up work outside the home or reducing work hours in order to provide for a child’s extensive care needs.   Adoption assistance is limited to the child’s foster care maintenance payment rate and certainly cannot replace full time employment, but as a supplement it can enable an adoptive family to make the adjustments necessary to care for their special needs child.


·         In the case of a single adoptive parent, identifying and paying for child care, after school activities or summer programs that reflect he child’s specialized care needs, while parents works. 


5.      In negotiating adoption assistance, the parties must consider the child’s care needs through the lens of the parent’s particular circumstances.  Remember, the purpose of adoption assistance was and is to increase the pool of suitable parents by enabling adults from a range of economic conditions to provide permanent homes for special needs children.



 ๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ’€Note: to Reader 

Among Ohio County Agencies, it is common to insist that adoption assistance may only be used to address the child’s special needs.  It is also common to ignore or minimize consideration of the parent’s circumstances.  This narrow approach is not only incompatible with federal and state law, but treats adoption assistance like other programs with defined sets of benefits.  It fails to recognize the vital role of adoption assistance as a supplemental source of support to be combined with the individual family’s resources to meet all of the child’s needs.

Are there categories of expenses, activities or programs that must be excluded from negotiations because federal and state law prohibit the use of adoption assistance to cover them?

 No.  Once again, the maximum amount of adoption assistance is effectively limited to the child’s foster care payment rate.  Otherwise, unlike other federal and state benefit programs, there are no expenses, programs or services that may be rejected out of hand as an invalid use of adoption assistance.  Adoptive parents must be concerned with addressing both the child’s ordinary, daily needs, as well as his or her special needs. 

 Significantly federal law and the Child Welfare Policy Manual employ the more inclusive term “needs” rather than “special needs” when discussing the negotiation of adoption assistance.  Special needs is an eligibility requirement for adoption assistance.  The broader term needs is used in the negotiation of adoption assistance.

If the object of negotiating adoption assistance is the successful integration of special needs children into a permanent, nurturing household, the key negotiation question becomes: will the additional supplement, provided through adoption assistance, enable the parents to meet the children’s ordinary daily needs and also provide the children with access to programs. activities and services that address their particular developmental, medical, behavioral or other problems?  (Long Question!!!)  Because adoption assistance is combined with family resources into a single family budget, there are no acceptable and unacceptable uses of adoption assistance.  As Section 8.2D.1 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual notes:

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.   

Next:  Negotiation, Policy v. Actual Practice