Children with special needs who are adopted from foster care may qualify for adoption assistance, which is paid to adoptive families to help them defray expenses related to their child's need for ongoing therapies or treatments or to cover certain one-time expenses.
There are two major funding sources of adoption assistance or subsidies: the Federal Title IV-E program under the Social Security Act, and State programs, which vary from State to State.
Adoption subsidy programs are typically categorized by the manner in which they are funded. Under the Federal Adoption Assistance Program, Federal Title IV-E matching funds are given to States that provide adoption assistance payments to parents who adopt children with special needs (as defined by the State). The children must be eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In addition, the program authorizes Federal matching funds for States that reimburse the nonrecurring adoption expenses of adoptive parents of children with special needs, regardless of AFDC or SSI eligibility.
Not all children who receive adoption assistance from States are eligible for Federal Title IV-E funds. The non-Title IV-E children's adoption subsidies are paid solely by the State in which their adoption agreement was signed (without Federal reimbursement). Adoption subsidies take various forms in different States and depend on the child's needs and the State agency's program.
The Federal definition under Title IV-E for a child with disabilities has three parts, as set forth under the Title IV-E program (42 USC § 673), whereby the State must determine that all three of the following conditions exist:
- The child cannot or should not be returned to the home of the parents.
- There exists, with respect to the child, a specific factor, such as ethnic background, age, or membership in a sibling group that would make placement difficult. (Federal law does not provide an exhaustive list of special needs conditions and thereby allows the States much discretion in determining the definition of a child with special needs.)
- Reasonable efforts have been made for unsubsidized placement except where a specific adoptive placement is in the child's best interests.
For ongoing adoption assistance with Title IV-E funding, children with special needs must be considered AFDC- or SSI-eligible. However, in order to receive Federal funds for nonrecurring adoption expenses, children need not be AFDC- or SSI-eligible.
For State funding, children must be eligible for adoption assistance according to State standards. Funded programs other than Title IV-E generally follow the Federal definition above when defining a child with special needs. (Child Welfare Information Gateway, http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/sneeds.cfm)
North American Council on Adoptable Children
Since 1994, NACAC has operated the national Adoption Subsidy Resource Center to educate parents and professionals on Title IV-E Adoption Assistance in the United States. The NACAC provides State specific information regarding adoption subsidies.