Oklahoma Adoption Assistance Program
The Adoption Assistance program helps to secure and support safe and permanent adoptive families for children with special needs. Adoption assistance is designed to provide adoptive families of any economic stratum with needed social services, and medical and financial support to care for children considered difficult to place. Federal and state law provides for adoption assistance benefits including Medicaid coverage, a monthly adoption assistance payment, special services, and reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses.
- Medicaid: The child is eligible for the Oklahoma Medicaid program or the Medicaid program in the state of residence.
- Monthly assistance payments: An adoption assistance payment is available for children who meet the special needs criteria. As of July 2010, 12,000 children were receiving this subsidy.
- Special services: Special services are used to meet the child's needs that cannot be met by the adoptive parent(s) and are not covered under any other program for which the child would qualify.
- Employment Related Child Care Services: Employment Related Child Care Services for children age 5 and younger.
- Reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses: Reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses is available to assist adoptive parents with one-time expenses related to the costs of the adoption. Funding is provided by 50 percent state and 50 percent federal funds. The program provides a one-time payment not to exceed $1,200 per child.
- Post-legal adoption assistance: Post-legal adoption assistance is a state-funded program to assist families who have adopted a child who has a causative, pre-existing condition that was not identified or known prior to the finalization of the adoption which has resulted in a severe medical or psychiatric condition requiring extensive treatment, hospitalization, or institutionalization. The child must also meet the definition of a child with special needs.
Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides for a federal adoption assistance program. If a child with special needs is not eligible for federally funded adoption assistance, the child may be eligible for state funded assistance as provided by state law.
Determination of Special Needs:
A child must be determined to have special needs to be eligible for federally funded or state funded adoption assistance, including reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses. A child is determined to have special needs by meeting all the following criteria:
Child cannot return home. The OKDHS has determined that the child cannot or should not be returned to the home of his or her parents.
Special factors or conditions. OKDHS has determined that because of one or more of the factors or conditions listed below, the child cannot be placed with adoptive parents without providing adoption assistance.
Physical disability. Physical disability is defined as a condition that requires regular treatment with a specific diagnosis given by the child’s physician.
Mental disability. The child meets the eligibility criteria for educable multi-handicapped (EMH) or trainable multi-handicapped (TMH) classes and has been evaluated by a licensed psychologist, psychometrist, school, or recognized diagnostic intensive adult supervision beyond ordinary age also qualifies.
Age. Eligibility based on the child’s age is determined below.
Kinship placement. There is no age requirement for a child placed with relatives who provides paid or non-paid kinship care and meets the specified degree of relationship.
Non-related and other relative placements. The child must be eight years of age or older. This includes a child adopted by relatives who was not the child’s caregiver at the time of adoptive placement.
Sibling relationship. The child is part of a sibling group of any age placed together:
A child of any age and at least one sibling are placed in trial adoption status in the same home.
A child younger than three years of age, not determined eligible to receive an adoption assistance payment at the time of the adoption assistance application, becomes eligible due to a sibling relationship.
If within one year of finalization of the child's adoption, the adoptive parent(s) finalizes the adoption of the child's sibling, the child is eligible for an adoption assistance payment.
The effective date to begin the adoption assistance payment for the child is the effective date of the adoption assistance payment for the sibling.
Emotional disturbance. This requires a determination by a physician, psychologist, behavioral therapist or social worker and documented with a specific diagnosis and prognosis, if applicable. It should further be corroborated with social worker, caregiver or child care personnel.
Racial or ethnic factor. Indian, Hispanic, Oriental, and African-American children age three years or older.
High risk of physical or mental disease. The child who exhibits high risk of physical or mental disease for conditions, which are not presently being treated, may qualify. If no other special factors or conditions are met, no monthly payment is made until there are documented symptoms of physical or mental disease.
Unsuccessful efforts to place the child without assistance. A reasonable but unsuccessful effort has been made to place the child without assistance, except where it would be against the best interest of the child because of such factors as a strong emotional tie to foster parents who are planning to adopt the child or placement with a relative.
Duration of Benefits:
Effective June 7, 2006 the Governor signed House Bill 2656, changing the age adoption assistance is terminated to age 18, unless certain conditions exist as described below.
- No payment may be made to any parent(s) with respect to any child who has attained the age of 18 years, except a child may continue to receive assistance until the child reaches the age of 19 if the child:
- Continues to attend high school or pursues General Education Development, or
- Meets the criteria for an adoption assistance difficulty of care rate as determined by the Department.
- In order for OKDHS to consider continuing adoption assistance beyond the child's 18th birthday, the adoptive parent(s) must submit, not later than 60 days prior to the child reaching age 18, a request for adoption assistance to continue beyond age 18. If the adoptive parent(s) does not timely submit the required documentation, or if OKDHS determines the child does not meet the criteria that warrants continuation of assistance beyond the 18th birthday, adoption assistance for the child turning 18 terminates effective the last day of the child's birth month. The request for adoption assistance to continue beyond age 18 shall include supporting documentation:
- A statement from school personnel providing documentation of high school attendance and anticipated date of graduation; or
- A statement from school personnel providing documentation that the child is pursuing General Education Development; or
- Medical or psychological assessments conducted and dated within six months preceding the child's 18th birthday, signed by a licensed physician, psychiatrist, or clinician describing the conditions, including diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.
- OKDHS determines that the adoptive parent(s) is no longer legally responsible for support of the child.
- OKDHS determines that the adoptive parent(s) is no longer providing financial support to the child. If the child is placed placed in out-of-home care, including psychiatric, residential, therapeutic, or foster family care, and the adoptive parent(s) continues to provide financial support to the child, adoption assistance may continue, but the rate of payment may be renegotiated.
- The adoptive parent(s) dies.
Any child who was receiving Title IV-E adoption assistance at the time of the death of all of the child’s adoptive parents or at the time the adoption dissolves may be eligible for adoption assistance if he or she is adopted again after Oct. 1, 1997. A child receiving state funded adoption assistance is eligible if adopted after May 29, 1998.
Adoption Assistance Annual Review:
When adoption assistance benefits are for more than one (1) year, OKDHS shall send the adoptive parent(s) an Adoption Assistance Annual Review request. The adoptive parent(s) shall provide OKDHS with any information regarding changes in the needs of the child or changes in family circumstances including, but no limited to, whether the adoptive parent(s) continue to be legally responsible for support of the child which would make them ineligible for such assistance payments or eligible from assistance payments in a different amount.
The Adoption Assistance Annual Review request will be sent to the adoptive family each year and must be returned to OKDHS within 30 days of the date of the request.
How to Apply for Benefits:
The prospective adoptive parents, custodial agency, or tribe on behalf of the child and family completes the Adoption Assistance application. The Adoption Assistance application is submitted to the State Office, Child Welfare Services (CWS), Adoption Assistance Section for approval. To request an Adoption Assistance application packet please call 405-521-2475.
An important program requirement is that the Adoption Assistance agreement must be signed by all parties (namely the adoptive parents and the OKDHS directors designee) prior to the final decree of adoption as required by federal and state law and OKDHS policy.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. How long can the adoption assistance continue?
A. To age 18, unless the child continues to attend high school or pursues General Education Development, or meets the criteria for an adoption assistance difficulty of care rate as determined by OKDHS. Supporting documentation must be provided not later than 60 days prior to the child's 18th birthday.
Q. Must the child remain in Oklahoma to receive adoption assistance?
A. No, adoption assistance agreements remain in effect even if a family moves out of Oklahoma. Oklahoma continues to make monthly payments, if applicable, and IV-E children can receive Medicaid regardless of where the family resides. State funded children may be eligible to receive Medicaid in the state where they reside. The scope of the Medicaid coverage may vary from state to state. OKDHS staff assists with securing Medicaid benefits in the new state of residence and assuring that proper paperwork is submitted timely.
Q. If a child receives benefits such as SSA, VA or other beneficiary payments, can the family receive those after adoption?
A. After the adoption is finalized, the parents may apply to receive those benefits. These benefits should be considered when the amount of the adoption assistance is negotiated with the family. If a child receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) prior to adoption, the child may not be eligible for this benefit after adoption or eligible in a different amount.
Q. If the adoptive parents add the child to their health and medical insurance, is Medicaid of benefit?
A. Yes, however the insurance must be claimed first. Medicaid will pay only if a Medicaid eligible child is using a Medicaid vendor and then only if the insurance amount is less than what Medicaid would pay or if a service is Medicaid compensable and the family insurance is not compensable. Currently, in the scope of Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, when a Medicaid child uses a Medicaid vendor, the vendor has agreed to accept the Medicaid payment as payment in full. This may not be the case in other states, and the family will owe the difference in the total and what insurance pays if they are using a non-Medicaid vendor.
Q. Is there ever a review of the adoption assistance?
A. Yes, annually the Department must determine that the need still exists, and that the parents continue to have legal and financial responsibility for the child.
Q. Can the amount of the subsidy ever be changed?
A. Yes, the parents and OKDHS can re-negotiate the adoption assistance amount anytime there is a change in the child’s needs, provided the child is not already receiving the maximum.
Q. What if I do not agree with OKDHS’s decision regarding my application for adoption assistance or subsequent requests?
A. You have a right to an administrative fair hearing if your application is denied, not acted on with reasonable promptness, approved in an amount less than requested, modified without your concurrence, or terminated.
Q. Is there an instance in which an adoptive family may apply for adoption assistance after an adoption is finalized?
A. Yes, both federal and state funded programs have provisions for adoption assistance after finalization if certain circumstances exist and eligibility criteria is met.
For additional information, contact Adoption Assistance.