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How Do Adoption Subsidies Affect School Lunch Programs?

Foster and adoptive parents may be perplexed about whom to include as a household member or what to include as income on the application for benefits for free or reduced school lunch programs. Below is information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found at: (page 37).


Income Eligibility

To determine if a household meets income eligibility requirements for benefits, school officials must compare the household size and the total household income to income eligibility guidelines.

Although school officials may have to use their own discretion in some instances, the following guidelines are intended to answer questions from households regarding income eligibility determinations.

A household or economic unit is a group of related or unrelated individuals who are not residents of an institution or boarding home but who are living as one economic unit, and who share housing and/or significant income and expenses of its members. Generally, individuals residing in the same house are an economic unit. However, more than one economic unit may reside together in the same house. Separate economic units in the same house are characterized by prorating expenses and economic independence from one another.

Household income is determined differently for adopted, foster, and emancipated children. Those differences are listed here:

Adopted child—An adopted child for whom a household has accepted legal responsibility is considered to be a member of that household. If the adoption is a "subsidized" adoption, the subsidy is included in the total household income.

Foster child—A foster child is a child who is living with a household but who remains the legal responsibility of the welfare agency or court. Such a child is considered a household of one, and therefore the foster care payments are not considered in total household income.

Emancipated youth—A child living alone or as a separate economic unit is considered to be a household of one.

Note: The USDA does not address guardianship.



So although individual schools have some discretion, adoption subsidies should be counted in family income when applying for free or reduced lunches.


For more information, contact NACAC's Adoption Subsidy Resource Center at 800-470-6665, 651-644-3036, or e-mail at

The Center is funded in part by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

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