State and Federal Adoption Subsidy
Utah’s Subsidy Consideration Guidelines
STATE AND FEDERAL ADOPTION ASSISTANCE:
Adoption assistance was instituted in the 1980s to encourage families
to adopt children who were languishing in the states’ foster
care systems and who were not likely to be adopted unless families
were given some financial assistance to help them meet these children’s
special needs. Such assistance was not intended to support private
or international adoptions or to be a “rescue program”
for adoptive families who were facing difficulties with their adopted
children. However, in some cases, children who were adopted through
private adoption agencies and qualify for Social Security may qualify
for federal or state adoption assistance.
It is the child who qualifies for adoption assistance, not the family.
The adopting family’s income is not a determining factor as
to whether or not the child qualifies.
A. A child who has been in state custody must meet
all three of the following criteria:
- The state has determined the child cannot or should not be
returned to the home of his/her parents, and;
- The state can document that reasonable efforts were made to
place the child for adoption without providing adoption assistance,
or that the child has a significant parent/child relationship
with the adopting parent(s), and;
- The child meets the state definition of a special needs child.
This means the child meets one of the following criteria: a) is
age 5 or older, or; b) is under the age of 18 with a documented
physical, emotional or mental disability, or; c) is a member of
a sibling group placed together for adoption.
The child’s documented level of special need or a change in
the family’s ability to meet those needs are the basis for
an increase or decrease in the level of subsidy. The family or caseworker
may initiate a change in the amount of subsidy.
B. Children placed through private licensed adoption agencies
or through independent adoptions will be eligible for adoption assistance
only if they are SSI eligible, as determined by the Social Security
Administration, at the time the adoption petition is filed. (An
exception is if they had adoption assistance in a previous adoption.)
Children who were eligible for adoption assistance in a previous
adoption may receive adoption assistance in a subsequent adoption
as long as they still meet the state definition of a child with
THE ADOPTION ASSISTANCE APPLICATION PROCESS
If the child you are adopting is in the custody of the state it
is the responsibility of DCFS to notify you of the availability
of State and Federal Adoption Assistance prior to finalization of
the adoption. Adoption assistance payments can only be made to adoptive
parents who have entered into a written Adoption Assistance Agreement
with DCFS. The written agreement is binding on the parties to the
agreement and must be signed prior to the final decree of
Adoption assistance payments cannot begin until: 1) the child is
placed for adoption in accordance with State rules; 2) the adoption
assistance agreement has been approved by the adoption subsidy committee;
and, 3) there is a signed adoption agreement. Adoption assistance
payments can begin as soon the adoption assistance agreement is
approved and signed and the child is placed into as approved adoptive
home. Be sure your adoption or foster care worker has provided you
with the application forms, has indicated where you will apply for
adoption assistance in your region of the State, and that you have
a copy of a signed adoption agreement prior to finalizing.
TYPES OF ADOPTION ASSISTANCE
A. REIMBURSEMENT OF NON-RECURRING ADOPTION EXPENSES
This reimbursement covers up to $2,000 of one-time reasonable
and customary expenses related to the adoption. Covered expenses
1. Adoption fees
2. Attorney fees
3. Adoption home study fees
4. Health and psychological examinations
5. Supervision of the placement prior to adoption
6. Transportation and reasonable costs of lodging and food for the
child and/or adopting parents during the placement or adoption process.
These expenses are eligible for reimbursement through Federal
IV-E funds for each child qualifying for adoption assistance. Reimbursement
is limited to adoption related costs incurred prior to finalization
and approved by the Adoption Subsidy Committee. Adoptive parents
are required to provide receipts for expenses.
It is not the intent of the monthly subsidy funds to pay for items
such as orthodontics, glasses, lessons, school expenses, and other
normal, expected child hood expenses.
B. MONTHLY SUBSIDY
Parents may receive a monthly subsidy to assist with costs of
adopting a child with special needs. The monthly subsidy is intended
to provide support to the child and family for the expenses incurred
as a result of the child’s special needs. Adoption assistance
is not intended to pay for basic expenses normally associated with
raising a child, such as orthodontics, lessons, school expenses
and other normal, expected childhood expenses.
The monthly subsidy portion of adoption assistance is a cash payment
to the family, not a maintenance payment. The money may be used
for anything the family wishes. The State may not dictate nor review
how those funds are used by the family.
The amount of the monthly subsidy is negotiated and agreed upon
by the family and the State where the child was in custody. It is
determined by the special needs of the child and the ability of
the family to meet those needs. The amount of monthly subsidy is
determined by DCFS policy. Although family income is not a determining
factor in qualifying a child for adoption assistance, it may be
a factor in determining the ability of the family to meet the child’s
special needs. Under no circumstances may the amount of monthly
subsidy exceed the amount the child would qualify for if in foster
The amount of monthly subsidy is reviewed every three years, and
may be adjusted up or down as agreed upon by the agency and the
adoptive family. The child’s documented level of
special need or a change in the family’s ability to meet those
needs are the basis for an increase or decrease in the amount of
the subsidy. The family or caseworker may initiate a change in the
amount of subsidy and it may be renegotiated at any time, not just
at the time of the review.
If the State reduces the amount of the monthly subsidy without
the agreement of the family, for any reason, the family has the
right to a fair hearing to appeal that reduction. The State has
an obligation to notify the parent of the right to a fair hearing
in the event that a subsidy is reduced.
If the child is determined to be IV-E eligible, federal matching
funds help pay for the monthly subsidy. If the child is not IV-E
eligible, the monthly subsidy is fully paid with State funds.
Federal IRS publications include tax information regarding the
receipt of adoption subsidy payments. Generally, the instruction
is, “Do not include in your income payments from a state agency
to help you care for your adopted child.” There are exceptions
where you may incur some tax liability if your reimbursements exceed
your expenses or if you do not provide support to the child for
more than half the year. Check with your tax accountant.
Medicaid coverage is available to a qualifying adopted child with
an adoption assistance agreement. The child does not have to receive
a cash payment through the adoption assistance agreement to receive
Medicaid assistance covers the cost of medical care and mental
health care not covered by the family’s private insurance.
In some cases, a family may choose not to include the adopted child
in the family’s private health insurance. You will be required
to fill out the application for Medicaid services and to complete
an annual review form to maintain the medical card. Medicaid coverage
begins the date of the Adoption Assistance Agreement and may cover
services 90 days prior to that date if approved. If services were
rendered prior to an executed Adoption Assistance Agreement or earlier
than 90 days before application, Medicaid cannot cover those services.
Your region’s Medicaid Eligibility Worker will inform you
of the medical choices in your area. Along the Wasatch Front, you
will be required to select an HMO; you will want to look at the
provider list to make sure that the physician you are seeing is
listed with both your private insurance as well as your Medicaid
HMO. If you take your child to a provider that is not listed within
the HMO, Medicaid will not cover the services. Also along the Wasatch
Front, mental health services are available through the community
mental health centers. You must apply for mental health treatment
through a qualified Medicaid provider. In some cases, a family may
choose not to include the adopted child in the family's private
General Medicaid Phone Number: 801-538-6155
Toll Free: 1-800-662-9651
Web Site: http://www.health.utah.gov/html/utah_medicaid.html
D. SUPPLEMENTAL ADOPTION ASSISTANCE
Subject to the availability of state funds, supplemental adoption
assistance may be available for financial support for extraordinary,
infrequent, or uncommon documented needs not otherwise covered by
a monthly subsidy, state medical assistance, or other public benefits
for which a child who has a special need is eligible. This is subject
to the approval of the regional DCFS Adoption Subsidy Committee
or if involving more than $3,000 in assistance, also the approval
of a Regional Review Committee.