Minnesota State Adoption Assistance Profile
Updated October 2014
Northstar Care for Children applies to adoptions finalized in 2015 and going forward. This is a significant change to the Minnesota adoption assistance program. We will be updating this page soon to reflect the new program.
State Adoption Assistance Contact Person
Tamera VanMoer (policy questions for initial Adoption Assistance eligibility)
Department of Human Services
PO Box 64944
St. Paul MN 55164-0944
Paulette Lonzo (policy questions for Adoption Assistance)
Department of Human Services
PO Box 64944
St. Paul MN 55164-0944
NACAC Adoption Assistance Contact
970 Raymond Ave, Suite 106
St. Paul, MN 55114-1149
Phone: 651-644-3036 or 800-470-6665
Adoption subsidies are available for children with special needs. Federal subsidies were created by Congress (through Public Law 96-272—the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980) to encourage the adoption of special needs children and remove the financial disincentives to adoption for the families. Children may receive a federally funded subsidy under Title IV-E or a state-funded subsidy as per state guidelines. Below we have outlined information related to definitions of special needs, benefits available, and procedures in your state. Answers to select questions were made available by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (AAICAMA) through the Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov). Profiles for each state’s subsidy program are available on our web site at www.nacac.org. If you have additional questions, please call the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) at 651-644-3036 or our subsidy help line at 800-470-6665, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have state-specific questions, please call your State Subsidy Contact Person or the NACAC Subsidy Representative (listed above) for more information.
Adoption Resources on the Web
See related links under Children/Adoption at:
Minnesota’s State-Specific Medical Assistance Resources
See related links under Children/Quick Links/Health Care Programs at:
County contact information
See related links under Children/Quick Links/Health Care Programs at:
Minnesota Statute 259.67, Adoption Assistance Program
Minnesota Rules, Chapter 9560.81 through 9560.101
1. What specific factors or conditions does your State consider to determine that a child cannot be placed with adoptive parents without providing financial assistance? ("What is your State definition of special needs?")
A child is considered to have special needs under this section if the following criteria are met:
(1) Due to a child's characteristics or circumstances it would be difficult to provide them an adoptive home without adoption assistance;
(i) The child is a member of a sibling group to be adopted at the same time by the same parent(s).
(ii) The child has been determined by the Social Security Administration to meet all medical or disability requirements of Title XVI of the Social Security Act with respect to eligibility for Supplemental Security Income benefits.
(iii) The child has documented physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities not covered under clause (ii).
(iv) The child has a high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities.
(v) The child is placed for adoption in the home of a parent who previously adopted another child born of the same mother or father for whom they receive adoption assistance.
Note: When a child’s eligibility for adoption assistance is based upon the high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities, payments shall not be made under the Adoption Assistance Agreement unless and until the potential disability upon which eligibility for the agreement was based manifests itself as documented by an appropriate professional.
(2)(i) A placement agency has made reasonable efforts to place the child for adoption without adoption assistance, but has been unsuccessful; or
(ii) The child's licensed foster parents desire to adopt the child and it is determined by the placing agency that the adoption is in the best interest of the child;
(iii) The child’s relative, as defined in Minnesota Statute 260C.007, subd. 27, desires to adopt the child, and it is determined by the placing agency that the adoption is in the best interest of the child; or
(iv) For a non-Indian child, the family that previously adopted a child of the same mother or father desires to adopt the child, and it is determined by the placing agency that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
(3) There has been a determination that the child cannot or should not be returned to the home of the child's parents as evidenced by:
(i) A court-ordered termination of parental rights;
(ii) A petition to terminate parental rights;
(iii) A consent to adopt accepted by the court under Minnesota Statute 260C.201, subdivision 11, and Minnesota Statute 259.24;
(iv) In circumstances where tribal law permits the child to be adopted without a termination of parental rights, a judicial determination by tribal court indicating the valid reason why the child cannot or should not return home;
(v) A voluntary relinquishment under Minnesota Statute 259.25 or 259.47 or, if relinquishment occurred in another state, the applicable laws in that state; or
(vi) The death of the legal parent.
2. What are the eligibility criteria for the State-funded Adoption Assistance Program?
To be eligible for state-funded adoption assistance a child must:
(1) Be determined to be a child with special needs, (refer to Minnesota's definition of special needs in question 1 above).
(2) Have had foster care payments paid on their behalf while in out-of-home placement through the county or tribe, and be either under the guardianship of the commissioner, or under the jurisdiction of a Minnesota tribe, with adoption in accordance with tribal law as the child’s documented permanency plan.
3. The maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in Minnesota is:
A monthly basic maintenance needs payment is available to assist in meeting the basic needs of a child, such as food, clothing and shelter. Monthly basic maintenance payments for adoption assistance are made according to the following schedule:
Rate for ages 19-21 is only if the Adoption Assistance is extended to theses ages.
A supplemental adoption assistance payment is in addition to the basic maintenance needs payment, available when a child has a diagnosed physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disability that requires care, supervision, and structure beyond that ordinarily provided in a family setting to children of the same age. The amount of payment for supplemental maintenance is based on the severity of a child’s needs and the effect of their needs on the adoptive family.
4. Specialized rates are based on the extraordinary needs of a child, and/or the additional parenting skill needed to raise a child. If Minnesota offers these rates, the criteria used to define them are as follows:
The placing agency social worker completes an individualized determination of a child’s needs and the effect of their needs on the adoptive family to determine the supplemental level for a child. The following descriptions of each level guide this determination.
This child requires a structured environment with supervision by an adult caregiver. Mild to moderate assistance is required to supplement self-care capabilities.
A child with these problems requires a regimented daily schedule, assistance with routine performance of activities of daily living and may be mildly to moderately retarded.
This child requires supervision by a caregiver that can provide direct and controlled management of behavior and environment. This child has the ability to feed, dress, and toilet themselves, but has limited ability to make appropriate decisions and will require ongoing moderate care and assistance.
A child with these problems requires excessive structure, guidance and direction, and requires motivational stimulation and skill development, and may be moderately to severely mentally retarded.
This child has only limited ability to care for themselves and requires that care be provided by a skilled adult caregiver at all times.
The severity of this child’s chronic or acute condition is exhibited in aggressive acting out, unsocialized withdrawal, or excessive regulation by adults, requiring a highly regimented and structured environment. This child may be severely to profoundly mentally retarded.
This child requires total and entire care and has no self-help capacity or ability to perform basic life-sustaining tasks. Care must be provided by a trained and skilled caregiver.
This child’s severe and chronic problems are exhibited in behaviors dangerous to themselves or others, or they have mental illness, profound retardation, or physical disabilities that require a strict, structured regimen for which a 24-hour out-of-home placement is the likely alternative.
5. Parents can receive payment or reimbursement for certain nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption. Below are the allowed expenses and the limit per child.
The reimbursement limit is $2,000 per child. To be reimbursed, costs must be reasonable, necessary, and directly related to the legal adoption of a child. Reimbursable costs include: agency adoption fees (including health and psychological exams); transportation, food, and lodging for child and adoptive parents necessary to complete the adoptive placement or the legal adoption process; court costs related to finalization of the adoption; replacement birth certificate fees; and fees for copies of the adoption decree.
Contact the placing agency to complete the certification and agreement. Please note, a non-recurring adoption expense reimbursement agreement must be approved by DHS prior to the finalization of the adoption.
All children adopted with Adoption Assistance Agreements from Minnesota have non-recurring adoption expense reimbursement built into their adoption assistance agreement; it is not necessary to execute a separate agreement for these children.
6. What Medicaid services are available in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, Medicaid is known as Medical Assistance. Enrollees obtain all their services directly from enrolled medical providers or from a health plan, which they choose when they enroll in the program. If the adoptive family has dependent coverage through private insurance, the family may be required to use the private insurance as a child’s primary insurance and Medical Assistance as secondary coverage. Families should contact a child’s Medical Assistance worker to further discuss these possibilities.
Questions about covered services for a child should be directed to their assigned Medical Assistance worker in their county of residence. If a family does not know who the Medical Assistance worker is for their child, the family should contact the Medicaid agency in the child’s county of residence and request that information.
The adoptive parent(s) must cooperate with the Medical Assistance program rules and procedures. Medical Assistance requires prior authorization for certain medical needs. Coverage of medical services will be limited to items provided for by Medical Assistance program rules.
General questions about Medical Assistance can be directed to the Minnesota Health Care Programs help desk 651-431-2670 (Twin Cities metro area), or
800-657-3739 (outside Twin Cities metro area).
For questions on covered services, contact the primary provider, the primary health care plan, or the above help desk numbers.
7. Children who have federally funded (Title IV-E) subsidy are categorically eligible for Medicaid benefits. However, it is the state's decision whether state-funded (non-Title IV-E) children are eligible for Medicaid benefits in Minnesota. Below is information on the Medicaid benefits available for state-funded children.
Children with state-funded Adoption Assistance Agreements who reside in Minnesota are provided medical coverage through Medical Assistance due to their special need for medical or rehabilitative care. Children with state-funded Adoption Assistance Agreements who reside outside of Minnesota are provided Medicaid through their state of residence, if that state has reciprocity with Minnesota and a child meets the Medicaid eligibility requirements in their state of residence. If there is no reciprocity or a child does not meet Medicaid eligibility requirements in their state of residence, Medical Assistance will be provided through Minnesota. Coverage is limited to providers authorized by Minnesota’s Medical Assistance program according to program rules in Minnesota.
8. What mental health services are provided by your state?
Some mental health services for children may be available through Medical Assistance or the family’s private insurance for a child. Families should contact their insurance provider for more information about coverage for mental health services.
Children’s mental health services are administered through the county social service agency in a child’s county of residence and through the local Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives.
Children’s Mental Health Case Management is a program that is designed to assist severely emotionally disturbed children and their families in assessing a child’s mental health needs and identifying and accessing appropriate services. Families should contact the social service agency in a child’s county of residence to check on their eligibility for Children’s Mental Health Case Management. For more information on children’s mental health services see the DHS web site and follow the link:
See related links under Children/Children’s Mental Health at:
Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives were established in response to concerns that children with severe emotional disturbances or who are at risk of such disturbances often require services from multiple service systems. The Collaboratives use a wraparound service model to coordinate services. For more information about Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives, see the following link:
See related links under Children/Children’s Mental Health at:
9. Does the state provide additional financial support or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under the state medical plan for children receiving adoption assistance?
Reimbursement is available for certain non-medical services and special costs required to meet a child’s special needs as documented in their Adoption Assistance Certification and corresponding supporting documentation. When a child’s eligibility for adoption assistance is based upon the high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities, no reimbursement for non-medical services or special costs will be made unless and until the potential disability manifests itself, as documented by an appropriate professional, and the commissioner authorizes reimbursement by modifying the Adoption Assistance Agreement accordingly.
Possible reimbursements are limited to those listed below. The program has specific rules for each reimbursement, so, depending on an individual child’s needs and family’s situation, a child may or may not be eligible for all of the reimbursements listed.
- Services prescribed by a physician, psychologist, or developmental specialist for children under age 3 who are developmentally delayed, and the services are not available through the public school system
- Child care during the hours of employment, training or education of the adoptive parent(s) (maximum reimbursement rate is limited to the amount the county social service agency would pay for a trained caregiver in the home or in a licensed daycare facility, or the amount the adoptive parent(s) would pay under the child care sliding fee program)
- Family counseling required to meet a child’s needs (reimbursement limited to amount insurance will not cover to include the family)
- Post adoption counseling to promote a child’s integration into the adoptive family (reimbursement limited to 12 sessions provided in the year following the issuance of the adoption decree)
- Respite care (reimbursement limited to a maximum of 504 hours annually at the respite rate set by the county social service agency)
- A portion of burial expenses, if a child’s special needs result in their death (maximum reimbursement of $1,000);
- Camping programs adapted to meet a child’s special needs (reimbursement limited to a maximum of two weeks of camp per year)
- Specialized communication equipment prescribed through the public school district, but not covered by educational, vocational, or other rehabilitation services
- Alterations to the family home or vehicle to accommodate a child’s special physical needs (three itemized estimates of the cost must be submitted with requests to make alterations to the family home or vehicle).
Adoptive parents must receive prior authorization for any of the reimbursement options listed above. Reimbursements are subject to Adoption Assistance Program rules, and adoptive parent(s) may be required to request services through their county social service agency and local resources before receiving reimbursement from the Adoption Assistance Program for services. Eligibility for services from the county social service agency may be considered in authorizing approval for reimbursement.
10. What types of post adoption services are available in your State and how do you find out more about them?
Post-adoption services in Minnesota are funded by DHS and administered by two nonprofit organizations:
- MN Adopt offers an adoption website, information and referral, training, and the HELP program. HELP provides clinical support from adoption specialists, referral to adoption-competent mental health providers, and potential financial assistance to adoptive families facing financial barriers to mental health treatment. More information is available at http://www.mnadopt.org.
- The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) offers peer support to adoptive parents and adopted children and youth. Services include in-person adoption groups for adoptees and support groups for adoptive parents, special events for adoptive families, online groups for adoptive parents, and limited one-on-one support from experienced adoptive parents. More information is available at http://www.nacac.org/postadopt/asn.html.
11. If the additional assistance (listed above in Questions
8-10) is to cover specific services (e.g., counseling/mental health services, respite care, etc.), must these services be explicitly identified in the Adoption Assistance Agreement?
No. Reimbursements for the non-medical services or special costs listed in Question 9 are available for all children whose eligibility for adoption assistance is based on their disability, age, or membership in a sibling group, provided that the adoptive parent(s) initiate the request for reimbursement before obtaining services, meet programmatic requirements, and receive pre-approval from the DHS Adoption Assistance Program. However, when a child’s eligibility for adoption assistance is based upon the high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities, no reimbursement for non-medical services or special costs will be made unless and until the potential disability upon which eligibility for the agreement was based has manifested itself, as documented by an appropriate professional and the commissioner authorizes reimbursement for non-medical services or special costs by modifying the Adoption Assistance Agreement accordingly.
Refer to the responses to Questions 9 and 10 for specific detailed information about eligibility and these services.
12. How are residential treatment costs covered (if at all) for adoptive families? What procedures must a family follow to receive these services?
The Adoption Assistance Program does not reimburse for the cost of residential treatment. Adoptive families may seek residential treatment placement through the county social service agency in their child’s county of residence. The county, typically through children’s mental health services, makes independent assessments about who they will authorize for placement in residential treatment. It is preferable that families seek children’s mental health services through the county prior to the need to seek residential treatment services for their child. Adoptive families may have coverage for residential treatment through their private insurance and need to coordinate coverage with their Medical Assistance insurance.
For children who reside in Minnesota and have an Adoption Assistance Agreement with Minnesota, state rules prohibit assessment of a parental fee based on the family's income. If parents pursue placement through the county, they are encouraged to contact their assigned county social worker for more information.
13. A deferred Adoption Assistance Agreement is one in which the initial monthly maintenance amount is $0. Does Minnesota offer such agreements?
Yes. In Minnesota, a deferred Adoption Assistance Agreement is typically referred to as a “high risk only” agreement. No monthly payments or reimbursements are made to the adoptive parent(s) (with the exception of reimbursement for non-recurring adoption expenses) unless and until the potential disability upon which eligibility for the agreement was based has manifested itself, as documented by an appropriate professional and the commissioner authorizes reimbursement for non-medical services or special costs by modifying the Adoption Assistance Agreement accordingly.
14. Does Minnesota operate a subsidized guardianship program?
No. However, Minnesota financial assistance in the form of Relative Custody Assistance may be available to individuals who accept a court-ordered transfer of permanent legal and physical custody of their minor relative(s) after a determination that a child cannot return to the home of their parent(s) has been made in juvenile court. For additional eligibility and programmatic information about Relative Custody Assistance contact the county social service agency.
15. Who makes the final determination of a child's subsidy eligibility in Minnesota? What roles, if any, do workers and administrators at the county, district, or regional level play in eligibility determination and/or assistance negotiation?
The placing agency (either a county social service agency, a tribal social service agency, or a licensed private adoption agency) is responsible for certifying a child as eligible for adoption assistance and discussing with the adoptive parents the need for adoption assistance. The agency completes the appropriate paperwork and submits it to the Adoption Assistance Program on behalf of a child and family. The final eligibility determination is made by the state and is approved and signed by an agent of the commissioner.
16. Will Minnesota consider my family income to determine my child's eligibility for an adoption subsidy?
No income “means test” is to be applied. Assessment is based on the circumstances or condition of a child and the family's ability to provide for their special needs.
17. When do subsidy payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits begin after adoption finalization.
18. Do children adopted from private agencies in Minnesota receive the same subsidies as those children adopted from public agencies?
Children adopted from private agencies are eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance subsidies if the child meets the factors or conditions in Question 1. Children adopted from private agencies are not eligible for state- funded Adoption Assistance.
19. When my child turns 18, which benefits, if any, are available to our family?
All Adoption Assistance Agreements terminate when a child reaches age 18. However, if a child has not completed a secondary education plan and is enrolled in a secondary education program as a full time student, or is incapable of self-sustaining employment because of a physical or mental disability upon which eligibility for the Adoption Assistance Agreement was based, extension of the agreement to age 22 may be possible. Prior to a child’s 18th birthday, the DHS Adoption Assistance Program will send a letter to the adoptive parent(s) providing instructions on how to apply for extension of the agreement. Requests for extension of the agreement must be received by the program prior to the end date of the agreement.
If an agreement is extended beyond a child’s 21st birthday, the funding will be from state funds only; eligibility for federal reimbursement terminates at age 21.
20. A child's Adoption Assistance Agreement may be periodically reviewed by the state. What is the typical process used in Minnesota?
Minnesota does not require periodic reviews.
21. Can Adoption Assistance Agreements be modified if requested by adoptive parents?
A request for a change in the Adoption Assistance Agreement can be made at any time if a child’s condition or circumstances change. Adoptive parents are directed to contact their county social service agency for instructions on how to proceed with a modification request.
If a child whose eligibility for adoption assistance is based solely upon the high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities develops the disability upon which eligibility was based, the Adoption Assistance Agreement may be amended to include monthly payments and reimbursement for non-medical services or special costs. Contact the county social service agency for details.
If the adoptive parent(s) of a child receiving adoption assistance dies, it may be possible for the Adoption Assistance Agreement to be transferred to a child's new guardian. Contact the Adoption Assistance Program for more information.
22. What are the exact steps a family must go through to access the fair hearing/appeal process in Minnesota?
Adoptive parents have the right to request a fair hearing any time they experience a denial, modification, or termination of the Adoption Assistance Agreement. The request for a fair hearing must be in writing within 30 days after receiving written notice of the contested action or decision from the Department, or within 90 days if the parents can show good cause why the request was not submitted within the 30-day time limit. To appeal an agency decision, adoptive parents should submit a written request for a hearing to:
Minnesota Department of Human Services
PO Box 64941
St. Paul, MN 55164-0941
23. Families may request a subsidy after the finalization of an adoption under certain circumstances. Below is the process by which families access a subsidy after finalization.
Contact Paulette Lonzo at 651-431-4716, or send a letter to:
Adoption Assistance Program
Department of Human Services
Paulette Lonzo, Social Service Consultant
PO Box 64944
St. Paul, MN 55164-0944
The letter should clearly indicate the circumstances of why their adoption finalized prior to the approval of adoption assistance. The Adoption Assistance Program staff will consult with the family, and if necessary, work with the placing agency. A denial letter will provide instructions about how to request a fair hearing.
Prior to the hearing, the family will need to gather information to demonstrate that a child was eligible for adoption assistance at the time the adoption was finalized to submit to the Department of Human Services judge. The placing agency may assist the family in gathering information needed for the hearing.
System Operation and Program Funding
24. How is the subsidy program operated and funded in Minnesota?
The Adoption Assistance Program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Adoption placing agencies assist the program with eligibility determinations and preparation of adoption assistance paperwork prior to finalization and, at the program’s request, modification of the agreement post-finalization. After the adoption has finalized, an adoptive family’s primary contact regarding their Adoption Assistance Agreement should be their Adoption Assistance Operation staff worker.
The federal contribution for Title IV-E eligible children is approximately 50 percent in Minnesota. This is known as the Federal Financial Participation (FFP) rate. The remaining cost of the program is funded entirely with state funds.
25. Below are other programs that may differentiate Minnesota's Adoption Assistance Program from others around the country.
Beginning January 1st, 2015 the state of Minnesota will be moving to a new program to support foster, adoptive and kinship families called Northstar Care for Children. Informtaion about the new program will be updated in December 2014. Contact Josh Kroll at 651-644-3036 x15 or email@example.com if you have questions about it now.