Adoption assistance supports permanency for special needs children in foster care by assisting with adoption expenses incurred by the adoptive parents as well as providing resources in caring for the children. Public county children and youth agencies (CCYA) are the only agencies that can determine whether a child is eligible for adoption assistance.
Families who adopt children eligible for adoption assistance can receive all or some of the following:
- Reimbursement for nonrecurring adoption expenses
Families may be reimbursed for actual, reasonable, necessary, one-time expenses directly related to the legal adoption of the child. Examples of nonrecurring expenses include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and other expenses directly related to the adoption, such as health and psychological examinations, consultations with medical providers, transportation, lodging or food. The maximum amount a family may be reimbursed is $2000 per adoption per child. The child must first be eligible for nonrecurring expenses in order to receive an eligibility determination for a federal or state monthly adoption subsidy and medical coverage.
- Monthly adoption subsidy
The monthly adoption subsidy is a negotiated amount agreed upon by the CCYA and the adoptive family. The adoption subsidy, in combination with the adoptive parents’ resources, is designed to cover the costs of meeting the ordinary and special needs of the child. The monthly subsidy cannot exceed the foster care maintenance payment amount the child received while in foster care. Children who are the subject of either a state or Title IV-E adoption assistance agreement that was executed when the child is or was at least 13 years of age will qualify for the adoption monthly subsidy between the ages of 18 and 21 during those periods when the agency has documentation that the children are actively meeting the definition of a child.
- Medicaid (federal medical coverage)
If a child is determined eligible for a Title IV-E monthly adoption subsidy, the child will receive federal medical coverage until the age of 18. Children who are the subject of a Title IV-E adoption assistance agreement executed when the child is 16 or older will also qualify to receive federal medical coverage between the ages of 18 and 21 during those periods when the agency has documentation that the child is actively meeting the definition of child.
- Medical Assistance (Pennsylvania’s medical assistance)
If a child is determined eligible for a state monthly adoption subsidy, the child will receive state medical assistance until the age of 18. Children who are the subject of either a state or Title IV-E adoption assistance agreement that was executed when the child is or was age 13-15 will also qualify to receive state medical assistance between the ages of 18 and 21 during those periods when the agency has documentation that the child is actively meeting the definition of child.
When is a child eligible for adoption assistance?
Generally speaking, Pennsylvania’s children must meet the following criteria to be eligible for adoption assistance:
- Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses
- The child must be legally free for adoption and placed in an approved pre-adoptive home. For children and youth under the age of 18, this means that the child’s parents must be deceased or their parental rights must be terminated by the court. If a youth age 18 or older is being adopted, the Pennsylvania Adoption Act does not require termination of parental rights prior to the adoption; however, each county or court may have their own expectations regarding this practice, and adoptive parents should follow the advice of their legal counsel.
- The child must be under the age of 21.
- The child must be a citizen or qualified alien.
- The child must have one of the following special needs characteristics:
- Physical, mental or emotional disability;
- Genetic condition which indicates a high risk of developing a disability;
- Member of a minority group;
- Member of a sibling group; or
- Five years of age or older.
- Reasonable efforts must have been made to place the child with a family who does not require adoption assistance. If the child has a significant emotional tie with the prospective adoptive parents, this requirement is unnecessary.
**Note: The child must first be eligible for nonrecurring expenses. A child who is not eligible for nonrecurring adoption expenses will not qualify for a federal or state monthly adoption subsidy or federal or state medical coverage as part of adoption assistance.
- Title IV-E (Federal) Monthly Subsidy
- The child must be eligible for Title IV-E nonrecurring expenses and meet one of the following circumstances for Title IV-E monthly subsidy:
- Eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) when removed from home;
- The “applicable child requirements” defined by the federal government;
- Eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Minor parent of the child was in foster care and received Title IV-E foster care payments that cover both the minor parent and child at the time the adoption petition is initiated; or
- The child received Title IV-E adoption assistance in a previous adoption.
- Act 148 (State) Monthly Subsidy
The child must be eligible for Title IV-E nonrecurring expenses and meet all of the following circumstances for Act 148 monthly subsidy:
- In the legal custody of a private agency licensed by the Department of Human Services or a public county children and youth agency;
- The child has resided in foster care for at least six months.
- Adoption Assistance Extension – Title IV-E or State Monthly Subsidy and Health Care Coverage for Children Ages 18 to 21
- The child must be under the age of 21;
- The adoption assistance agreement for a federal or state monthly subsidy on behalf of the subject child was executed when the child is or was at least 13 years of age;
- The adoption assistance agreement on behalf of the subject child went into effect on or after July 1, 2012;
- The adoptive families of these children are eligible to receive the monthly subsidy and medical coverage (federal or state may apply) for the child between the ages of 18 and 21 so long as the agency has documentation that the youth is meeting at least one of the following under Pennsylvania’s definition of child:
- The child is completing their secondary education or equivalent credential;
- The child is enrolled in a post-secondary educational or vocational training program;
- The child is participating in a program designed to promote employment and/or remove barriers to employment;
- The child is employed and works at least 80 hours a month; or
- The child has a documented medical or behavioral health issue preventing them from doing any of the above.
Who funds adoption assistance?
Adoption assistance was created by Congress in the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. Adoption assistance in Pennsylvania is administered through CCYAs in accordance with federal and state laws, including the Pennsylvania Adoption Opportunities Act of 1974.
Federal, state and county governments generally share in the costs of adoption assistance. (http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/055/chapter3140/chap3140toc.html)
These funding streams are:
- Title IV-E (federal funds) of the Social Security Act
- Act 148 (state funds)
- County funds