In that time we've had several major events progressing us (finally) to adoption of our kiddos. Someone mentioned the other day that we'll have 6 kids in our family as though it was just about to happen. It was a quick-said, well-meant thing by someone I hadn't seen in a while but I did correct her by pointing out we've been a family of 8 with 6 kids for well over a year (19 months if you count the time since we got Baby-Baby, 14 if you count all 4). Baby Baby is no longer a baby. He's walking and spouting off 2-3 word phrases as he seems fit. All the other kids continue to grow and progress and are very much ours. And yet, the adoption that "should have been" final in March or April is now scheduled for September. We have an actual date to consummate the adoption in court. Stay tuned.
The last thing we were waiting for before scheduling an adoption date was to negotiate adoption subsidy for our children. This must be done before signing the adoptive placement agreement that formally moves our kids out of foster care in order to obtain subsidy support.
Children adopted from foster care are often eligible for an array of financially supportive benefits (often referred to as subsidy or adoption benefits) in order to encourage families to adopt from foster care. Adoption benefits are typically provided through federal funding (and therefore include standard eligibility requirements across the states) but are administered by the state or local agencies and sometimes funded by the state which means there are variations by state, particularly in the amount of funding. With that said, keep in mind what I share today is specifically for our home state (Texas) and may be somewhat different than what is available in another state. That being said, adoption benefits are a very beneficial, less-well-known benefit available to those who wish to adopt from foster care, often making foster care and foster-care adoption more realistic to families who otherwise would be concerned about the financial "burden" of adopting.
Generally, eligibility for adoption subsidy is determined by federal eligibility requirements designed to encourage the adoption of children who are harder-to-adopt. In other words, there are lots of families out there looking to adopt a newborn baby without exposure to drugs and without medical concerns. The more you mess with that equation the less-likely the average family is to want to adopt a child. Things like race, medical/developmental concerns, behaviors, and age all may make a child less-appealing to the average family. All children over 6, minority children over the age of 2, and those who are diagnosed with a "permanently handicapping condition" are generally considered eligible for adoption benefits. In addition, sibling groups (or children being placed for adoption with a sibling who was already a permanent member of the family) are eligible for subsidy because there are fewer families willing to adopt 2, 3, or more children than those willing to consider adding one child.
For a real-example, Summer was a 2-year-old Caucasian female at the time of her adoption. She was not being placed for adoption with a biological sibling. She did not, at the time, have a diagnose-able disability. Therefore, she did not qualify for adoption benefits. Our newest children are of a racial minority. Three of them are over 2 years old and therefore would qualify for adoption subsidy on their own if placed separately. The baby is not yet 2. We could wait until he was 2 to adopt him so that he was eligible, but that is not necessary because he (and all of them) are eligible for benefits because they are being placed together as a sibling group.
(Since Summer's adoption she has been diagnosed with a "permanently handicapping condition" and we have a letter from her pediatrician saying as much. With that in mind, we can appeal her original ruling of ineligibility and attempt to negotiate subsidy with her as well. We will likely do that).
Adoption benefits come in 4 main forms:
- College Tuition
- Non-Recurring Adoption Benefits
- Recurring Adoption Benefits/Monthly Support
All children in Texas who are adopted from foster care will receive College Tuition. I'm not entirely sure how this works everywhere but I'm told it is a federal program for all children to receive this benefit whether or not they are eligible for other adoption benefits. (Don't quote me on that but do ask everyone you can in your state about it. We found out after the fact that Summer is indeed eligible for college tuition.) College tuition in Texas includes all tuition at state-funded colleges up through and including doctoral studies. That is awesome/
Because my newest children are eligible for subsidy, they automatically earn Medicaid and Non-Recurring Adoption Benefits on top of College Tuition. Medicaid will serve as primary medical insurance if I do not obtain private insurance. That being said, adding my newest 4 to my insurance doesn't cost me extra so I will go that route (and have with 3 of them so far). This means that medicaid is the secondary insurer and basically covers copayments. This is a nice benefit at the least and vital in many cases.
Non-Recurring adoption benefits include two things, the most common of which is attorney's fees for the adoption. In our area there are several adoption attorneys that contract with the state (that are very good!) so that the payment goes directly to the attorney and no money ever comes out of the adoptive family's pocket for the adoption itself. The amount is $1200 per child. In some cases the children will have one-time expenses that facilitate the family being able to adopt the child. For example, maybe a parent is willing to adopt a child in a wheelchair and needs to retrofit their home to add a ramp or maybe needs vehicle modifications to accommodate a lift. In these cases the family might also be eligible for a one-time payment to cover the cost of the modifications. This is generally not available to families currently fostering the child prior to adoption because the thought is the parents are already caring for the child in a way that meets care standards and therefore any additional support should not be necessary.
Recurring adoption benefits/monthly support is generally the piece of adoption benefits that must be negotiated. In Texas (currently) the amount of monthly support is capped based on level-of-care. All of our children are considered basic level-of-care and therefore are eligible for up-to $400 per month for adoption subsidy payments until they each turn 18 years old. The amount is only slightly higher for higher levels-of-care and in all cases is less than the amount received as foster-care payments. Though income is not a consideration in eligibility it can be a consideration during negotiation for the amount of subsidy to be received by child. The adoptive parents submit detailed explanation for expected expenses as part of the application for adoption subsidy and the negotiator reviews to determine how much of each eligible expense the family is expected to pay and how much the state is expected to pay, by percent. For example, in our case I indicated daycare expenses, per child, would be $750 per month until they were old enough to not have childcare (at which point other costs would kick-in). The negotiator could look at our income and determine that our family is expected to pay 90% of that amount and the state only 10%, so that would mean $75 toward monthly subsidy, and so on for other expenses.
Honestly I was very nervous about how much the negotiator would take our income into account. We definitely make "enough" money to provide for our family but we also are adopting 4 children and it is expensive to raise 4 children, especially when we lose the $2800 monthly we're currently receiving as foster-care subsidy in addition to the daycare currently paid for by the state. In the end though, the negotiator was kind and determined our family should receive the $400 benefit, per child, without considering our income too much.
Now that we have a signed agreement we are ready to move forward to adoption!