Updated March 2019

Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Arizona. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.

State Contact

Linda Cunningham
Adoption and Guardianship Subsidy Program Manager
Arizona Department of Child Safety
1818 E Sky Harbor Circle, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ  85034

NACAC Volunteer

Nancy Williams
Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents
Peoria, AZ 85381

What Is Adoption Subsidy?

Parents who are thinking about or are in the process of adopting a child with special needs from foster care should know about adoption assistance (also known as adoption subsidy). Federal (Title IV-E) and state (often called non-IV-E) adoption assistance programs are designed to help parents meet their adopted children’s varied, and often costly, needs. Children can qualify for federal adoption assistance or state assistance, depending on the child’s history. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state in which the child was in foster care before the adoption.

Below is information related to definitions of special needs, benefits available, and procedures in Arizona. 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 other states’ subsidy programs are available. If you have additional questions, please contact NACAC at 651-644-3036, 800-470-6665, or adoption.assistance@nacac.org. If you have state-specific questions, please call your State Subsidy Contact Person or the NACAC Subsidy Representative (listed above) for more information.

For more information on Title IV-E eligibility, view our fact sheet Eligibility and Benefits for Federal Adoption Assistance.

Adoption Resources on the Web:

Arizona’s state-specific medical assistance:

Arizona’s citations for adoption assistance:
Arizona’s adoption assistance link is through the Arizona Revised Statutes (law) found at Title 8, Chapter One, Adoption, Article 2, Adoption Subsidies. See the following links: Article 2 – Adoption Subsidies
8-141 – Definitions; exception
8-142 – Adoption subsidy program; funding; claims; limitation
8-142.01 – Adoption subsidy program; hospital reimbursement
8-143 – Eligibility; limitation
8-144 – Subsidy agreement; duration; amount; periodic review; confidentiality
8-145 – Appeals

Arizona Administrative Code R21-5-501 through R2-5-514

Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?

1. How does Arizona define special needs to determine eligibility?

To determine eligibility a child must meet the requirements of “special needs” as defined by Title IV-E of the Social Security Act and Article 2 Title 8 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. To meet the requirements, the Department shall determine that:

  • The child cannot or should not be returned to the parent’s home;
  • The child cannot be placed with adoptive parents without adoption subsidy, due to a specific factor, condition, or special need of the child; and
  • A reasonable but unsuccessful effort was made to place the child without an adoption subsidy, unless the Department determined that it was not in the child’s best interest to place the child with another family because of the child’s significant emotional ties with the prospective adoptive parents while in the their care as a foster child.

A child with special needs is a child who has at least one of the following factors, conditions or circumstances because of which it is reasonable to conclude the child cannot be placed with adoptive parents without providing adoption assistance:

  • physical, mental or developmental disability;
  • emotional disturbance;
  • high risk of physical or mental disease that may result in a debilitating condition;
  • high risk of developmental disability that may result in a debilitating condition;
  • age six or older at the time of application for adoption subsidy;
  • member of a sibling group being adopted by the same family;
  • racial or ethnic factors when such factor(s) impede the child’s adoptive placement; and
  • high risk of severe emotional disturbance if removed from the care of the child’s foster parent or relative as diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

2. Does the state-only funded adoption assistance program differ in any way from the Title IV-E program?

To be eligible for state-funded adoption assistance a child must meet the same special needs criteria established in the Title IV-E program. In addition the child must be in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety or an Arizona licensed private child-placing agency and legally present in the United States.

3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Arizona eligible for adoption assistance?

Yes. The adoption subsidy supervisor provides instructional materials, forms, and technical assistance to private child placing agencies that want to apply for adoption subsidy on behalf of children in their custody.

What Supports and Services Are Available?

Monthly Payments

4. What is the maximum basic adoption assistance maintenance payment in Arizona?

Age Rate Monthly rated based on 30 days
0-11 years old $19.68/day $590.40
12-20 years old $21.72/day $651.60

The basic rate is known as AM1. (AM stands for adoption maintenance.)

5.Does Arizona provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?

Specialized rates are based on the special needs of the child and the intensity of services and care he or she requires for conditions such as:

  • physical or medical conditions or limitations;
  • developmental disabilities or educational special needs; or
  • behavioral or mental health conditions.

An evaluation of the severity of the child’s needs, the time, supervision, and expense required to care for the child, and professional documentation are used to determine the rate for each child.

Level Rate Monthly rated based on 30 days
AM2 $23.52/day $705.60/month
AM3 $29.94/day $898.20/month
AM4+ $35.75/day $1072.50/month

AM4+ is reserved for children who required therapeutic, professional or medically fragile homes in foster care.

6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?

Adoption assistance payments may begin after the petition to adopt has been filed and the adoptive parents and the Adoption Subsidy Supervisor have signed the adoption subsidy agreement.

7. When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?

Adoption assistance benefits may continue until the child’s 18th birthday if the adoptive parents continue to be legally and financially responsible for the child.  Prior to the child’s 18th birthday the state may renegotiate this agreement.   Adoption subsidy may continue through the age of 21 if the child is residing with the adoptive parent and is enrolled in and regularly attending a recognized high school, with proven progress towards completion of high school diploma or GED.  Unless the child has received a high school diploma or certificate of equivalency (GED), or the child reached age 22.  If subsidy is extended after 18, AHCCCS/Medicaid health insurance depends on the state of residency but is not available past 21.

8. Does Arizona offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?

Arizona does not offer deferred adoption assistance agreements however children with no current special needs conditions may not receive adoption subsidy maintenance payments.

Medical Care

9. What Medicaid services are available in Arizona?

AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) is Arizona’s version of Medicaid. Some covered services are:

  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital
  • Physician services
  • Outpatient health services
  • Medical supplies, durable medical equipment & prosthetic devices
  • Medically necessary transportation
  • Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services (EPSDT) for members under age of 21.

Behavioral health services are available to eligible members under the age of 18 through the Regional Behavioral Health Authorities.

Children with Arizona adoption subsidy agreements are enrolled in AHCCCS through the Adoption Subsidy program. For children residing in Arizona with adoption subsidy agreements from other states, parents should call Karen Reynolds at 602-771-3624 for information and to enroll.

10. What medical benefits are available for state-funded children? (Children who have federally funded/Title IV-E adoption assistance are automatically eligible for Medicaid benefits.)

Children who are eligible for state-funded (non-IV-E) adoption subsidy may receive AHCCCS (Title XIX Medicaid). These children receive a full array of Medicaid covered services similar to IV-E eligible children if they reside in Arizona or other states that provide reciprocal Medicaid coverage.

11. What mental health services are available?

Mental health services for adoption subsidy children are provided through Regional Behavioral Health Authorities (RBHA). Public mental health services for children in Arizona are administered by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS), with funding through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). ADHS subcontracts with Regional Behavioral Health Authorities (RBHA) to provide the services. Mental health services may include evaluation and screening; inpatient psychiatric facility care; outpatient clinic care; behavioral health residential treatment; individual, group, and family therapy; counseling; crisis intervention; behavior management; psychotropic medication; and respite.

Not all services may be available in all cases. Parents should contact their adoption subsidy worker for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.

For more information about AHCCCS, visit https://www.azahcccs.gov/.

For more information about Arizona’s Behavioral Health Services, visit https://www.azahcccs.gov/Shared/BehavioralHealthServicesGuide.html or call the Department of Behavioral Health Services at 602-364-4558.

Other Benefits

12. In Arizona, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?

Parents may be reimbursed up to $2,000 per petition for nonrecurring expenses such as reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, and expenses directly related to the legal process of adopting a child with special needs (such as costs relating to the adoption study, health and psychological examinations, supervision of the placement before the adoption, and transportation and reasonable costs of lodging and food for the child or adoptive parents incurred to complete the adoption process). Expenses that cannot be reimbursed include, but are not limited to, family counseling received before the final adoption decree; one-time costs associated with physical remodeling, renovation, and alteration of the adoptive parents’ home or property; and any other expenses not related to the legal process of adoption.

Nonrecurring adoption expenses submitted more than nine months after the final decree of adoption are not eligible for reimbursement.

13. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?

Child care is not available through adoption subsidy.

14. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?

Families may receive payment for respite care if the need for this service is related to a condition on the adoption subsidy agreement. Parents must first access and exhaust any public resources that offer respite and must receive authorization from the Adoption Subsidy case manager before using respite services.

Many private organizations offer respite options. Parents can search for Arizona resources in the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service at http://archrespite.org/respitelocator

Parents should contact their adoption subsidy worker for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of respite services.

15. Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?

Medicaid covers residential treatment costs. Beyond Medicaid coverage, families should contact the adoption subsidy case manager to request payment for special services. The request would be referred to the Adoption Subsidy Review Committee for authorization. Parents must first access and exhaust any private and public resources. The treatment must be medically necessary and authorization from the Adoption Subsidy Program must be received before obtaining services.

16. What other post-adoption services are available in Arizona and how do families find out more about them?

For children eligible for adoption subsidy, Arizona provides post adoption assistance though a special services subsidy. Special services subsidy benefits may provide for extraordinary, infrequent or uncommon needs related to the pre-existing special needs conditions noted in the original adoption assistance agreement that cannot be met by AHCCCS/Medicaid or other public or private resources. Special services subsidy must have prior authorization.

Not all services may be available in all cases. Parents should contact their adoption subsidy worker for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.

Post-adoption services in Arizona are administered by the Department of Child Safety and provided through private agencies. Post-adoption services may include the following:

  • Information and education
  • Resource and referral
  • Legal resource information
  • Respite care
  • Support groups
  • Advocacy
  • Parental assistance and training

The following private agencies provide support for adoptive families in the community:

For more information, parents may also contact the Arizona Foster and Adoption Offices https://dcs.az.gov or contact Julie O’Dell (602-255-2623 or jodell@azdes.gov).

17. If the assistance listed above in questions 13 to 16 are for specific services, must these services be explicitly identified in the adoption assistance agreement?

The medical, dental, and/or mental health conditions that may require provision of Special Services Subsidies must be explicitly identified in the adoption assistance agreement.

What Should Families Know about Applying for Adoption Assistance?

18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?

Local case managers are responsible for informing the family of the availability of adoption subsidy. The application is completed by the adoptive family and the child’s adoption worker who submits it to the Adoption Subsidy Program. If the child is eligible, the agreement is initiated by the Adoption Subsidy case manager or supervisor and presented to the adoptive family by the child’s adoption worker.

19. Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?

A local office supervisor reviews the application and all necessary documentation, and then submits the packet for approval to the Adoption Subsidy Program. A Management Review is completed on all applications and makes the final decision about eligibility. Adoption Subsidy Program staff then negotiate an agreement with the adoptive parent(s).

20. How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?

Along with an application for adoption assistance, parents should submit documentation showing the child’s special needs condition(s) was undiagnosed but existed at the time the adoption was finalized. After the adoption is final adoption subsidy is only available if there is documentation that the child has a pre-existing condition that was undiagnosed at the time of the adoption and the child met all other criteria for eligibility at the time of the adoption.

Families should contact the Adoption Subsidy office in Phoenix at 602-771-6470 or the office in Tucson at 520-885-8002 depending on where they live.

How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?

21. Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?

Parents can request a change in the adoption assistance agreement at any time. Parents should contact their adoption subsidy case manager to discuss the need for a change, and request a form they can return to the case manager. Parent must provide documentation from appropriate professionals to support the request for change. Requests for changes should typically be in writing but can also be made over the phone but cannot be reviewed until the necessary documention is received.

A Management Review must be completed and approve all changes for requests of increased subsidy rates. Parents have the right to appeal an agency decision to deny, reduce, or terminate adoption assistance by requesting a fair hearing in writing within 20 calendar days of receipt of the decision letter.

22. What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Arizona?

Adoptive parents have the right to request a fair hearing any time DCS denies, reduces, or terminates adoption assistance benefits. Parents contact their adoption subsidy case manager to request a fair hearing. Parents must make the request to the Adoption Subsidy case manager in writing within 20 calendar days of receipt of the decision letter affecting the child’s adoption assistance benefits.

A hearing will be scheduled by the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings. The hearing will be held at the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings however rather than attending the hearing in person, parents may choose to testify by phone.

Hearings are conducted in accordance with Arizona Administrative Code. The hearing officer will listen to both sides and keep a full and complete record and issue a decision. Any party adversely affected by a final administrative decision may seek judicial review.

What Else Do Families Need to Know?

23. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Arizona?

The program is state supervised/state administered, which means personnel at the state office make both policy and eligibility decisions.

The federal contribution to Title IV-E-eligible children (known as the Federal Financial Participation or FFP rate) is 67.23% in Arizona. The remaining cost of the program is funded entirely with state general funds. Special services are 100% state funded.

24. Does Arizona operate a subsidized guardianship program?

Yes. Arizona has a state funded guardianship subsidy program for children for whom a Title 8 guardianship is established through the juvenile court.

Specific eligibility factors are:

  • There is a Title 8 permanent guardianship finalized through Juvenile Division of Arizona Superior Court in accordance with state statute A.R.S. §8-872;
  • The child is in the custody of the Department of Child Safety; and
  • The guardian must apply for other state and federal program benefits on behalf of the child.

The rates below for subsidized guardianship cannot exceed those of adoption assistance and are offset by any benefits received on behalf of the child. Only licensed foster parents can receive a rate higher than SBG 1 (SBG stands for subsidized guardianship).

Level Rate
SBG1 $12.95 per day
SBG2 $15.73 per day
SBG3 $22.06 per day
SBG4 $27.81 per day

For more information, parents should contact the Guardianship Subsidy office at 602-771-6470.

25. Does Arizona offer a tuition waiver program?

No, but the Arizona Education and Training Program (ETV) provides funds for post-high school education and training to young adults who are currently or were formerly in foster care. Any person who was in foster care at age 16, 17 or 18 or who was adopted from the state foster care system at age 16 or older, and who has not yet reached 21 years of age may apply for these funds.

Parents and youth can obtain applications at http://www.fc2sprograms.org/arizona/.

26. Does Arizona offer a state adoption tax credit?

Arizona offers a deduction (Other Subtractions from Income, line 36 Part D) based on expenses up to $3,000 in the year the adoption is finalized.

27. Does Arizona have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?


28. What is the payment schedule for adoption assistance? Who do I contact if I haven’t received my payment? Can I receive my adoption assistance through direct deposit?

The date the check goes out varies by month. For families who receive a paper check, the check stub will notify them of the date of next month’s check. For those who receive direct deposit, they will receive an e-mail notification that they payment is posting to their account, and will also notify the parent of the date for next month’s payment.

For families who have problems with their payment, or wish to set up direct deposit, they should contact their Adoption Subsidy case manager. If the don’t know who their case manager is, they need to contact the subsidy office to which they are assigned to find out, Phoenix office phone number is 602-771-6470 and Tucson office is 520-885-8002.

29. What else differentiates Arizona’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?

Each child is assigned a case manager to assist them locate and utilize supportive and preventive services in their communities. The case manager is available to support and assist the family when assistance is requested by the adoptive family. In addition Arizona has a Mental Health Specialist specifically to assist Adoption Subsidy families. The role of the Mental Health Specialist is to assist families navigate the behavioral health system and assure that children are receiving all the mental health services to which they are entitled.

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