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Pennsylvania State Subsidy Profile

Updated September 2014

State Subsidy Contact Person

TaWonda Jones-Williams
Division of Fiscal Policy
Bureau of Budget & Fiscal Support
Office of Children, Youth & Families
Department of Public Welfare
Annex, Health & Welfare Bldg.
P. O. Box 2675
Harrisburg, PA 17105
Phone: 717-787-5199
Fax: 717-705-0364

NACAC Subsidy Representatives (parent/volunteer)

Phyllis Stevens
Together As Adoptive Parents
478 Moyer Road
Harleysville, PA 19438
Office: 215-256-0669
Fax: 215-513-2921

Ja-Neen Jones
Three Rivers Adoption Council
307 Fourth Ave, Ste 310
Pittsburgh PA 15222
Phone: 412-471-8722 x230

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 ( Profiles for each state’s subsidy program are available on our web site at 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 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:

Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange (PAE)

Pennsylvania’s state-specific medical assistance: and

Office of Medical Assistance Programs Site Map

Pennsylvania’s adoption assistance:    
[Together as Adoptive Parents (TAP) has a web site that describes support services in Pennsylvania (e.g., support groups, tutors, Medicaid providers) by county.]

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 with special needs is defined as a child who meets the following criteria:

  • Is free for adoption
  • Has a qualifying factor or condition
    • Be five years of age or older and under the age of eighteen, or twenty-one and eligibile for extenstion
    • Be a member of a minority group
    • Be a member of sibling group of two or more placed together in the same adoptive home
    • Have a physical, mental, emotional condition or handicap
    • Have a genetic condition which indicates a high risk of developing a disease or handicap
  • For whom reasonable efforts were made to place without adoption assistance. There are exceptions to these efforts if it is against the best interest of the child, such as a child who has significant emotional ties with foster family who is planning to adopt.

2. What are the eligibility criteria for the State-funded adoption assistance program?

In order to be eligible for state-funded adoption assistance a child must be a special needs child as defined above, less than eighteen years of age, or twenty-one years of age and eligible for extension, in foster care for no less than six months, and in the legal custody of a county agency or agency approved by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW).

3. The maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in Pennsylvania is:

Monthly adoption assistance maintenance payments cannot exceed the monthly foster care rate the child was receiving.  This rate varies by county and is determined by the child’s needs.

4. Specialized rates are based on the extraordinary needs of the child, and/or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child. If Pennsylvania offers these rates, the criteria used to define them are as follows:

There are different types of foster care with varying rates available for children based on their needs.  The County Children and Youth Agencies determine what type of foster care best meets the child’s needs.

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.

Nonrecurring adoption expenses are one-time expenses that include: home study fees, court costs, attorney fees, and travel (when necessary to complete the placement or adoption process).

Families should apply for reimbursement prior to the finalization of the adoption. 

The reimbursement limit is $2,000 per child.

6. What Medicaid services are available in Pennsylvania?

Children on Medicaid in Pennsylvania are eligible for any medically necessary service.

Medicaid hotline for state residents: 800 692-7462. (No specific contact person available)

7. Children who have federally funded (Title IV-E) subsidy are automatically eligible for Medicaid benefits.  However, it is the state's decision whether state-funded (non-Title IV-E) children are eligible for Medicaid benefits inPennsylvania.  Below is information on the Medicaid benefits available for state-funded children.

The same coverage is available to non-IV-E eligible children.

8. What mental health services are provided by your State?

Public mental health services for children in Pennsylvania are administered by County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Programs, with funding available through the Department of Public Welfare Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP), and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS). Services include the following examples:

  • Behavioral health rehabilitation services
  • Psychiatric inpatient, psychiatric outpatient clinic
  • Psychological services, prescription drugs
  • Targeted case management
  • Drug/alcohol inpatient and outpatient care

The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services maintains a current listing of all regional offices. To find a regional OMHSAS office:

DPW Mental Health Services:


Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or medical assistance specialist for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.

9. Does your State provide additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under your State medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance?

Pennsylvania does not offer additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under its state medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance. However, uncovered costs may prompt an adoptive family to request a renegotiation of their adoption assistance agreement, particularly if the child’s medical or therapeutic needs have increased since the agreement was originally signed. In no case may the adoption assistance payments exceed the amount the county agency would expend to maintain the child in foster care.

10. What types of post adoption services are available in your State and how do you find out more about them?

Post adoption services are available through the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), Office of Children, Youth and Families through the Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN). SWAN Post adoption services (referred to as Post-permanency Services, include the following examples:

  • Advocacy for post-permanency services
  • Support groups
  • Respite Care

Eligibility is open to all adoptive, kinship, and permanent legal custodian placements from the child welfare system. Families self refer for SWAN post permanency services by calling SWAN at 1-800-585-SWAN (7956).   County and private agencies across the state offer a variety of post adoption services including:

  1. Information and referral
  2. Educational Materials/Newsletter
  3. Educational Programs
  4. Lending libraries
  5. Support Groups/Programs
  6. Advocacy
  7. Respite Care
  8. Therapy
  9. Case management

DPW affiliate agencies include Pennsylvania Adoption Connections, Post Adoption Support System (PASS), and Together as Adoptive Parents (known as “TAPlink”). Contact TAPlink: or phone: 215-256-0669.

Respite Care is provided through the Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN) as a service under post-permanency services, Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Pennsylvania’s respite programs, link:

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or post adoption services contact for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.

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?


12. How are residential treatment costs covered (if at all) for adoptive families? What procedures must a family follow to receive these services?

There are no special adoption assistance provisions for residential treatment costs other than the Medicaid card and/or the maintenance payment.  The financial responsibility for the child’s needs remains that of the adoptive family.

13. A deferred adoption assistance agreement is one in which the initial monthly maintenance amount is $0. Does Pennsylvania offer such agreements?

Pennsylvania does not offer deferred adoption assistance agreements.  However, a monthly adoption subsidy agreement may be negotiated at the time the agreement is signed for a $0 payment as outlined in the Adoption Assistance Agreement. This practice allows for renegotiation if the circumstances of the child or adoptive family should change.

14. Does Pennsylvania operate a subsidized guardianship program?

Yes.  Pennsylvania does provide a subsidy for children who are in the custody of a public children and youth agency and who leave the child welfare system with a court-approved permanent legal custodian.

Programmatic Procedures

15. Who makes the final determination of a child's subsidy eligibility in Pennsylvania? What roles, if any, do workers and administrators at the county, district, or regional level play in eligibility determination and/or assistance negotiation?

County agencies have sole authority for certifying a child’s eligibility for adoption assistance.  County agencies also have responsibility for determining the types and amounts of benefits a family will receive.

16. Will Pennsylvania consider my family income to determine my child's eligibility for an adoption subsidy?

If you are an adoptive family, income and other resources are not considered when determining the child’s eligibility for adoption subsidy.

17. When do subsidy payments begin?

Adoption assistance payments and benefits begin on the effective date of the agreement. That date may be prior to finalization when the following four criteria have all been met:

  • Parental rights to the child have been terminated;
  • Child is placed in the prospective adoptive home;
  • The adoption agreement has been signed; and
  • The adoption petition has been filed.

18. Do children adopted from private agencies in Pennsylvania receive the same subsidies as those children adopted from public agencies?

Children adopted through private agencies who meet the special needs criteria may be eligible for adoption assistance.  The county agency determines eligibility based on federal or state statutory regulation.

19. When my child turns 18, which benefits, if any, are available to our family?

All adoption assistance shall be terminated by the county agency when the child reaches 18 years of age or 21 years of age if the child is eligible for extension.

20. A child's adoption assistance agreement may be periodically reviewed by the state. What is the typical process used in Pennsylvania?

County agencies will contact families annually to verify that pertinent circumstances remain unaltered.

21. Can adoption assistance agreements be modified if requested by adoptive parents?

The County Children and Youth Agency (Agency) or the adoptive parents may request a change in the adoption assistance agreement and renegotiate the terms of the agreement at any point while the agreement is in effect. The family must make a written request to the Agency to change the monthly adoption assistance payment due to changes in the needs of the child or the circumstances of the family. The family must provide documentation related to the change in the needs of the child or the circumstances of the family that support the request for change.

The Agency is required to contact the parents annually to assess the child's needs and the circumstances of the family. The Agency may request a renegotiation if significant changes in the circumstances of the child or family are reported. Any changes must be made with the concurrence of the adoptive parents and the county agency. Changes in the terms of the adoption assistance agreement require a new agreement be signed by both the county agency and the adoptive parents.  If a parent does not receive the requested change, the parent may appeal the agency’s decision. See also Question number 22 for complete information regarding fair hearings.

Pennsylvania Families:

Contact your regional office through the Regional Children Youth and Families Offices:

Pennsylvania Families or Out-of-State Families with foster care children or adoption agreements from a Pennsylvania county:

Contact the county through the County Children and Youth Directory:

22. What are the exact steps a family must go through to access the fair hearing/appeal process in Pennsylvania?

The adoptive family can request a fair hearing whenever a Department of Public Welfare (DPW), county Children and Youth Agency decision affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits. If the adoptive parents feel they have been wrongly denied benefits on behalf of an adoptive child, they have the right to a fair hearing at any time. Allegations that constitute grounds for a fair hearing include:

  1. Relevant facts regarding the child were known or should have been reasonably known by the public or private agency and were not presented to the adoptive parents prior to the finalization of the adoption.
  2. Denial of assistance based upon a means test of the adoptive family.
  3. Adoptive family disagreement that a child is ineligible for adoption assistance.
  4. Failure by the CCYA to advise potential adoptive parents about the availability of adoption assistance for children in the state foster care system.
  5. Decrease in the amount of adoption assistance without the concurrence of the adoptive parents.
  6. Denial of a request for a change in payment level due to a change in the adoptive parents’ or child’s circumstances.

An appeal must be filed by the family in writing within thirty (30) calendar days of receiving written notice of an adverse decision from the County Children and Youth Agency (CCYA). Upon receipt of the appeal, the CCYA shall date stamp the appeal and submit the appeal with a copy of the agency action that is being appealed to the DPW Bureau of Hearing and Appeals within three working days. They have exclusive authority to grant or dismiss the appeal. Any existing benefit in an adoption assistance agreement continues during the appeal process. The CCYA is responsible for the following:

  1. Explaining to parents the process of filing an appeal (fair hearing request).
  2. If necessary, helping the parents to complete the written appeal request.
  3. Explaining that all oral appeal requests must be put in writing within three days of the oral request.
  4. Assuring that the appellant has signed the appeal.
  5. Date-stamping the appeal when it is received and reviewing it to determine if its actions were in accordance with DPW regulations and policies.
  6. Taking steps to arrive at a settlement that can be approved by the DPW Bureau of Hearings and Appeals without a hearing.
  7. Forwarding any appeals that are not resolved at the CCYA level within three working days from the date the written appeal request was received and date stamped to:

Department of Public Welfare
Bureau of Hearings and Appeals
2330 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110

If the appeal is denied by the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, the family may request, within fifteen days of the denial, that the Secretary of Public Welfare reconsider the decision. The family may also file a Petition for Review with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court within thirty days of the mailing of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals decision. Both of these options may be pursued at the same time.

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.

If the family has grounds to file an appeal, they may do so following the procedures in Question 22 (above).

System Operation and Program Funding

24. How is the subsidy program operated and funded in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has a state supervised/county administered child welfare system. This means that personnel at the state office are responsible for making policy decisions regarding the adoption assistance program, and provide guidance to county offices.  The counties make decisions related to children’s eligibility. Pennsylvania establishes program and administrative regulations that apply to 67 county agencies.  Public agencies are accountable for adoption assistance eligibility determination and program implementation. 

The adoption assistance program is funded through federal, state, and local dollars.  The federal contribution to Title IV-E-eligible children is 51.82% in Pennsylvania.  This is known as the Federal Financial Participation (FFP) rate.

25. Below are other programs that may differentiate Pennsylvania's adoption assistance program from others around the country.

Together as Adoptive Parents (TAP) created a web site that describes support services in Pennsylvania (e.g., support groups, tutors, Medicaid providers) by county.  See

While Pennsylvania does not offer college tuition waivers at this time, the Pennsylvania State Foster Parent Association (PSFPA) has a scholarship program open to high school seniors who are presently in care through a private or public foster care agency in Pennsylvania or whose parents are “active” members of the PSFPA, and whom will be continuing their education. An application and further information can be obtained at

The Chafee Education and Training Grant Program offers grant assistance to Pennsylvania undergraduate students aging out of foster care who are attending a postsecondary institution approved for the Federal Title IV student financial assistance programs.  For eligibility requirements, application form and further information go to

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
970 Raymond Avenue, Suite 106
St. Paul, MN 55114
phone: 651-644-3036
fax: 651-644-9848