Adoption Assistance: Q&A
Disclaimer: County Children and Youth Agencies are the only agencies that can determine eligibility for Adoption Assistance.
1. What is adoption assistance? What benefits can a child/family receive?
Adoption Assistance supports permanency for special needs children in foster care by providing the families that adopt these children with the resources they need to care for these children. Public county children and youth agencies (CYA) are the only agencies that can determine whether a child is eligible for Adoption Assistance. Families who adopt children determined eligible for Adoption Assistance can receive all, or some, of the following:
- Reimbursement for non-recurring adoption expenses — Families may be reimbursed for actual, reasonable, necessary, one-time expenses directly related to the legal adoption of the child. Examples of non-recurring 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 episode. The child must first be eligible for non-recurring expenses to receive an eligibility determination for a federal or state adoption monthly subsidy and medical coverage.
- Monthly Adoption Subsidy — The monthly adoption subsidy is a negotiated amount agreed upon by the CYA 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 negotiated monthly subsidy cannot exceed the foster care maintenance amount the child would receive in foster care.
- Medicaid (federal medical coverage) — If a child is determined eligible for a Title IV-E adoption monthly 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 18-21 during those periods of time when the agency has documentation that the child is actively meeting the definition of child (see Question #2 for additional information).
- Medical Assistance (Pennsylvania's medical assistance) — If a child is determined eligible for state adoption monthly 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/was 13-15 will also qualify to receive state medical assistance between the ages of 18-21 during those periods of time when the agency has documentation that the child is actively meeting the definition of child (see Question #2 for additional information).
2. When is a child eligible for Adoption Assistance?
Generally speaking, Pennsylvania's children must meet the following criteria to be eligible for Adoption Assistance:
- Non-Recurring 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 18 or older is being adopted, the Pennsylvania Adoption Act does not require termination of parental rights prior to the adoption-but each county and/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 non-recurring expenses. A child who is not eligible for non-recurring adoption expenses will not qualify for a federal or state adoption monthly 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 non-recurring 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/youth was in foster care and received Title IV-E foster care payments that cover both the minor parent and child/youth at the time the adoption petition is initiated;
- The child/youth received Title IV-E Adoption Assistance in a previous adoption.
- Act 148 (State) Monthly Subsidy
The child must be eligible for Title IV-E non-recurring 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; AND
- 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 had to be executed when the child is/was at least 13 years of age
- The adoption assistance agreement on behalf of the subject child has to/had to be in 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- please see Question #1 for additional information) 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.
3. Is family income considered when determining if a child can receive assistance?
No. Eligibility for adoption assistance is based on the special needs of the child and the adopting family's ability to support those needs and incorporate the child into their household in relation to their lifestyle, the standard of living and future plans. A "means test" of the prospective adoptive family cannot be used to determine a child's eligibility for adoption assistance or the subsidy amount the adoptive family will receive.
4. How does a family receive adoption assistance for the child they are adopting?
The county children and youth agency is the only agency that can determine if a child is eligible to receive adoption assistance; the county children and youth agency must determine eligibility. Once determined eligible, an agreement is negotiated between the county children and youth agency and the prospective adoptive family.
** Note: The adoption agreement must be executed prior to or during the time of adoption finalization to be eligible for adoption assistance.