Many children with special needs are in foster care as they wait for a family to provide them with a loving, stable, and permanent home. But families considering adoption might sometimes need additional financial support to help meet a child's needs. Oregon's Adoption Assistance Program is a state and federally funded program that offers various types of assistance to adoptive parents for children who meet the eligibility criteria.
There are several types of assistance available to adoptive parents in Oregon. These subsidies do not reimburse a family for a child's special needs. However, adoption assistance can provide financial support for those who may require it to legalize the adoption or meet the child's medical needs.
Parents may not end up needing any financial assistance at the time of adoption. In these cases, they can enter into an agreement with the Oregon Department of Human Services which ensures that cash or medical subsidies will be available in the future, should they be necessary.
Additionally, the following types of assistance may be available:
Adoption assistance does not cover the total cost of raising a child; it is meant to be used along with parental income and the family’s financial resources. The adoption subsidy also does not duplicate services in connection with Medicaid coverage, any private insurance, various community resources, or public education. Although parents can negotiate the adoption subsidy, it does not cover income replacement, daycare, orthodontia, or parental time.
To be eligible for adoption assistance, the Oregon Department of Human Services must have concluded that the child has special needs. Several criteria will factor into making this determination. First, the child must be unable to return to their birth parents because parental rights were terminated or voluntarily relinquished or in the event of the parents’ death.
Secondly, the Oregon Department of Human Services must determine that there is a reason adoptive placement might be challenging. For example, the child may be diagnosed with a physical, mental, or emotional condition or disability that will likely require ongoing treatment. They might also be in a group of three or more siblings, over the age of eight, or belong to an ethnic, racial, or cultural minority.
Additionally, to satisfy the eligibility requirements, reasonable efforts to place the child with an appropriate family without financial assistance must have been unsuccessful.
For families who are thinking about adopting a foster child and request financial assistance, a caseworker will fully explain the child's needs. They will review the family's financial situation and evaluate the availability of community resources. The caseworker will also consider the child's expenses, the amount the parents will provide, and the amount of assistance requested. Under no circumstances may the adoption subsidy exceed the foster care base payments, which are determined by the child's age.
Once the appropriate forms have been filled out and completed, Central Office Adoption Assistant Program staff will review them. The case is then assigned to an Adoption Assistance Coordinator who will contact the family within 60 days of receiving the assignment. The coordinator will negotiate the adoption assistance amount and send agreements to the family, which must be signed and returned.
When an agreement can't be reached in negotiations, the case may be referred to a review committee. If the family disagrees with the decision, they may request that the Adoption Services Unit Program Manager review the case. If they aren't satisfied with the determination of this review, they are entitled to appeal the case and have it brought before a hearing officer.
Notably, parents must open an adoption assistance case before the adoption process is finalized. Otherwise, the child will not be eligible for the program. The benefits are usually in place until the child has reached the age of 18. If the child was adopted at age 16, assistance might be extended. Benefits may also continue after 18 if the child has a developmental disability or is eligible to receive Social Security income.
If circumstances arise that warrant a renegotiation of adoption assistance payments, parents can ask to modify the agreement at any time. The family should contact the Adoption Assistance Coordinator for paperwork to formally request renegotiation of the agreement. Information relevant to the change in circumstances must be provided, along with estimated costs of the child's new needs.
Adopting a child from foster care is a rewarding experience. However, the process can be complex and it is best to consult with an experienced adoption attorney who can help you navigate the legal system. Based in Salem, Litowich Law offers families throughout Oregon the guidance they need regarding all aspects of adoption. We welcome you to contact us.