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.