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Financial Resources for Waiting Child Adoptions


Federal and state adoption assistance, generally referred to as adoption subsidy programs, are available to ensure that families who adopt waiting children have the necessary services and financial resources to meet their children's ongoing needs. Adoption subsidies are available for your child whether your home study was done by a public or a private agency.


In 1980, Congress enacted the Title IV-E Program to remove financial barriers to the adoption of waiting children. As previously noted, nearly all children waiting in the foster care system are determined to have special needs and many are, therefore, eligible for some adoption subsidy.

Although this is a federally funded program, individual states determine which children qualify. The subsidies, and their amounts, are decided on a case-by-case basis and the needs of the child. The subsidy undergoes an annual renewal process, and the adoption agency helps families through this process.

According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children, to qualify for the Title IV-E adoption assistance program, several criteria must be met:

1. The court must have ordered that the child cannot or should not be returned home to the birth family.

2. The child is a special needs child, as determined by state definition.

3. The child could not be placed for adoption without a subsidy.

4. The child was eligible, before adoption, for assistance under one of two programs:

  • Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a program that was eliminated by Congress in 1996 and replaced with a new program, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program for low-income persons with disabilities. SSI eligibility rules recently have been tightened, so fewer adopted children may be eligible under this program, especially those with emotional or behavioral problems.
  • Your own financial resources have no bearing on your child's eligibility for Title IV-E adoption assistance. Eligibility is strictly based on the child's situation before being placed in your home. However, states may take your family income into account, along with the child's needs, when negotiating the actual amount of the subsidy with you.


    Children who qualify for Title IV-E adoption assistance are automatically eligible for Medicaid benefits. States also may choose to provide Medicaid coverage for children who do not qualify for the federal adoption assistance program. It is possible that your child's need for medical coverage will not be apparent at the time you adopt. However, medical problems that were not fully recognized or disclosed by the child welfare agency may appear later and require long-term and expensive treatment. Also, the effects of multiple foster care placements, as well as a history of abuse and neglect, may make the need for medical coverage for mental health care equally important.

    Even if you feel certain that your own health plan will be adequate, it is critical that you arrange, before finalization, for the full amount of Medicaid assistance available. Life is unpredictable, particularly for children who have been in foster care, and even though you may never need to use Medicaid or other parts of the adoption subsidy programs, it's important that all possible resources be available in case they are needed.


    The amount of money a family may receive cannot be greater than the foster care payment the state would have made if the child had remained in family foster care. Generally, the monthly cash payment will be less and will vary by child. It also may change for an individual child over time, depending on the child's needs.


    Under Title XX of the Social Security Act, adopted children with special needs may be eligible for social services benefits if there is an adoption assistance agreement in effect for the child. With the help of social workers, adoptive families can identify post-adoption services that will help the adoption succeed. Such services may include specialized day care; respite care; in-house support, such as housekeeping and personal care for the child; and counseling. In some cases, individual counseling for the child may be covered while family counseling is not, and partial costs for some services may have to be met by the adoptive family. It's important to remember that Title XX funds are limited and may not always be available in each state at a given time.


    One-time, out-of-pocket expenses for "reasonable and necessary" costs directly related to the adoption may be reimbursed. These may include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, required health and psychological examinations, transportation, and reasonable costs of lodging and food for the child and/or the adoptive parents, when necessary, to complete the placement or adoption process. Although the federal government allows states to reimburse up to $2,000 in non-recurring expenses, many states have set lower amounts. Check with your case worker to find out which expenses are covered, how much is allowed in your state, and how to process claims for reimbursement.

    Whether the federal government or the state provides the subsidy, it is the state that determines the child's eligibility and sends out the adoption assistance checks. If you're denied a government subsidy or feel the subsidy is inadequate, you can appeal the decision through the appropriate state agency.

    (For more information about adoption subsidies, call the North American Council on Adoptable Children at 1-800-470-6665.)


    Reimbursement of adoption expenses must be agreed upon before finalization of the adoption and may not include expenses that were reimbursed to the family through another source, such as an employee benefits program.


    Information about Independent Adoptions


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