Updated June 2015
Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Florida. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.
Courtney Smith, MSW
Adoption Program Manager
Office of Family Safety
1317 Winewood Blvd.
Bldg. 6, Room 167
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0700
Courtney Lee, ICPC & ICAMA Compact Administrator
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children
Department of Children and Families
1317 Winewood Blvd.
Bldg 3, Room 102-F
Tallahassee, Fl. 32399-0700
Florida’s Adoption Information Center
Jacksonville, FL 32216
800-96-ADOPT / 800-962-3678 (in Florida); 904-353-0679 (outside Florida)
What is Adoption Assistance?
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 Florida. 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 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.
For more information on Title IV-E eligibility, view our fact sheet Eligibility and Benefits for Federal Adoption Assistance.
Adoption resources on the web:
http://www.adoptflorida.com (DCF’s Florida Adoption Information Center)
Florida state-specific medical assistance information:
Florida’s adoption assistance information:
www.adoptflorida.org includes a Frequently Asked Questions page that covers some adoption assistance information.
Special needs description:
Florida Administrative Codes 65C-16.001 through 65C-16.017:
Florida policy Federal and State Funding Eligibility (chapter 5, page 57-79):
Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance of Subsidy?
1. How does Florida define special needs to determine eligibility?
A child with special needs is defined as a child that:
- Was permanently committed to the Department or licensed child placing agency, AND
- Has significant emotional ties to his or her foster parent or has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to adoption:
- Eight years of age or older
- African American or racially mixed parentage
- Member of a sibling group being placed for adoption as a unit
- Developmentally disabled.
- Physically disabled.
- Emotionally disabled.
- AND, except for children adopted by their foster parent or relative caregiver, there were reasonable but unsuccessful efforts to place without adoption assistance.
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 be a special needs child as defined above and the child may be a non-citizen.
3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Florida eligible for subsidies?
Yes, as long as they meet the three criteria listed above under special needs and the family resides in Florida. Children adopted through private attorneys may qualify if they receive Supplemental Security Income, or received Title IV-E adoption assistance in a prior adoption.
What Supports and Service Are Available?
4. What is the maximum basic adoption assistance maintenance payment in Florida?
Typically, Florida provides adoption assistance to adoptive parents, in the amount of $5,000 annually (paid $416.66 per month), for the support and maintenance of a child until the month the child turns 18.
A different amount may be paid depending on the child’s needs and the adoptive parents’ circumstances. The amount of adoption assistance may be adjusted based on an increase in the child’s needs or the family’s circumstances to meet those increased needs. In no case shall the amount of the monthly payment exceed the family foster care board payment that would have been paid during the same period if the child had been in a foster family home.
5. Does Florida provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?
If a child is receiving a therapeutic family foster care or medical family foster care board rate, the adoptive family can negotiate up to the actual family foster care board rate the child received while in foster care. A group rate or residential rate cannot be considered when negotiating adoption subsidy benefits.
6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits on the effective date of the adoption assistance agreement. Payments will not be disbursed until all parties have signed the adoption subsidy agreement. Adoptive placement is usually the date documented on the memorandum of agreement to adopt and the adoption subsidy agreement form.
7. When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?
Adoption assistance payments and Adoption Assistance Medicaid end the month the child turns age 18. .
8. Does Florida offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
Yes. If at the time the child is placed for adoption, the adoptive parents choose not to receive adoption assistance subsidy for the child, they are encouraged to sign an adoption assistance agreement with a payment amount of $0 listed in the agreement. Signing an adoption assistance agreement before finalization preserves the ability to negotiate later a subsidy amount for the child in the event the family needs financial assistance to meet the child’s needs. Because the child is determined eligible for subsidy with an amount of $0 and the subsidy agreement is signed and approved before finalization of the adoption, the child is eligible to receive Adoption Assistance Medicaid to age 18.
9. What Medicaid services are available in Florida?
Medicaid services differ by community. As expected, many urban areas have a greater variety of Medicaid services and providers than rural communities. Parents should contact the post-adoption services counselor in their area for the specific Medicaid services and providers available in their community. The name and contact information for the post-adoption services counselors, listed by county, is located at http://www.adoptflorida.org/contactPACounselor.shtml.
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.)
All children who are determined eligible for non-IV-E or state funded adoption assistance are eligible for Medicaid. If a change must be made to an adopted child‘s Medicaid, such as a change of address, it is critical that the adoptive parents report the change to the post-adoption services counselor in their area. The counselor will communicate the change to the person who handles Medicaid. Adoptive parents should not make changes via the Medicaid Options 800 number or the local ACCESS office.
11. What mental health services are available?
Public mental health services for children in Florida are administered by the Department of Children and Families, Substance Abuse and Mental Health. The Children’s Mental Health system of care is publically funded and serves eligible children with serious emotional disturbance, children with emotional disturbance, and children at risk of emotional disturbance, within the amount of funds appropriated for these services. Mental health services in Florida are provided through various programs with the assistance of mental health professionals who accept Medicaid. Local communities may offer:
- Community Mental Health: Includes rehabilitative services that are either psychiatric in nature, provided or recommended by a psychiatrist; or medical in nature, provided or recommended by a psychiatrist or other physician.
- Early Intervention: Includes medical and remedial services designed to enhance the capacity of children with conditions causing a delay in normal development. The services include screenings, evaluations, and medically related early intervention services, such as nutritional, psychological, audiological, nursing, developmental, social work, speech language pathology and parent training.
- Intermediate Care Facility Services for the Mentally Retarded or Developmentally Disabled: Provided to individuals who, because of their mental or physical condition, require care and services which can be made available to them only through institutional facilities.
For more information on Florida Mental Health and Children’s Mental Health, parents should contact the post-adoption services counselor in their area. Contact information is available at http://www.adoptflorida.org/contactPACounselor.shtml.
12. In Florida, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?
Parents of children who receive adoption assistance (whether IV-E or not) are eligible to receive reimbursement of up to $1,000 per child in nonrecurring expenses such as attorney fees, court costs, birth certificate fees, travel expenses (including food and lodging), agency fees, and physical and psychological examination fees. Parents’ income will not be considered.
Payments can be made up to two years following adoption finalization. However, every effort should be made to complete these transactions within three months after the adoption is finalized.
13. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
Adopted children are not eligible for subsidized child care through the adoption program. They may qualify like any other child in Florida.
14. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
There are limited respite options in Florida. Parents should contact their local post-adoption services counselor or search for respite programs in the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service at http://archrespite.org/respitelocator.
15. Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?
The family may contribute to the costs of residential treatment through their insurance or through their monthly adoption assistance payment. The child may be eligible for residential services through Medicaid, but these are usually time limited. The post-adoption services counselor can provide program information and referrals and involve the DCF local Mental Health Office.
16. What other post-adoption services are available in Florida and how do families find out more about them?
Post-adoption services in Florida are administered by the Community Based Care Agencies or their subcontracted agencies. The DCF and contracted agencies provide various services, depending on location. Post-adoption services may include the following:
- Information and referral
- Adoptive parent support groups
- Adoption-related libraries (through 1-800-96ADOPT)
- Temporary case management
- Targeted case management
- Trainings for adoptive parents every January and May
- Florida Adoption Reunion Registry (FARR)
- Services from mental health professionals who have completed adoption competency training
- Assistance when requesting an increase in an adoption subsidy
- Assistance when requesting financial medical assistance when the child has a medical need that Medicaid and other community resources will not cover
A list of all of the local adoptive parent support groups is available at www.adoptflorida.org/localinformation.shtml.
Not all services may be available in all cases. Parents should contact the post-adoption services counselor regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.
17. If the assistance listed above in questions 12 to 16 are for specific services, must these services be identified in the adoption assistance agreement?
Assistance for financial medical assistance when the child has a medical need that Medicaid and other community resources will not cover must be identified as a part of the negotiation of the adoption assistance agreement.
What Should Families Know About Applying for Adoption Assistance?
18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
The case manager for the child will discuss subsidy with the adoptive parents and, in all cases, the maintenance adoption subsidy agreement must be signed and approved by all parties before adoption finalization.
19. Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
In most cases, the Community Based Care or subcontracted adoption specialist and the adoptive parents agree on the subsidy amount, and approval of the subsidy agreement form is completed at the Community Based Care level. A denial of an adoption subsidy request must be handled as stated in question 22.
20. How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?
The only time an adoption subsidy agreement can be approved after finalization of an adoption is when an agency admits that they did not explain to the adoptive parents about the availability of adoption subsidy. Florida law requires that all agencies explain the availability of adoption subsidy, and the agencies should assist the family with a subsidy request unless the family decides to not complete a request for subsidy. In those rare circumstances when a family was not made aware of adoption subsidy before finalization, a request can be approved through an administrative hearing. At the hearing, the agency and family will testify that subsidy information was not provided to the family before finalization.
How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?
21. Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?
Adoptive parents may request modifications to adoption assistance agreements at any time, preferably in writing. The amount of the adoption assistance may be adjusted up to the maximum allowable payment for the child, or reduced, with the parents’ concurrence, to fit the child’s changing needs and the families’ circumstances. Under no circumstances can an adoption subsidy exceed the monthly family foster care board rate that that child would be eligible for at the time of the request. To start this process, families should contact the post-adoption services counselor in their area. The counselor will provide you with the name and contact information of the person who handles such requests.
If the Community Based Care Agency and the adoptive parents cannot agree on the adoption subsidy, the Community Based Care Agency is required to provide to the DCF Regional Office the reasons why the agency and adoptive parents disagree. If the DCF Regional General Counsel’s Office agree with the Community Based Care Agency, a denial letter is sent to the adoptive parents with the specific reasons and a description of the process and timeframe for requesting a fair hearing.
What Else Do Families Need to Know?
23. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Florida?
Florida’s adoption assistance program is state supervised by the Office of Child Welfare within the Department of Children and Families and administered by the Community Based Care Agencies. Florida is divided into 20 Community Based Care Agencies located throughout the state.
The federal contribution to Title IV-E eligible children (known as the Federal Financial Participation or FFP rate) is 59.72% in Florida. The remaining cost of the program is funded by state general revenue funds. Local/county governmental units are not responsible for any portion of adoption assistance payments.
24. Does Florida operate a subsidized guardianship program?
Although it is not called subsidized guardianship, Florida has a relative and non-relative caregiver benefit program that provides Medicaid and a monthly financial benefit until the child reaches age 18. To be eligible the child must have been adjudicated dependent by the juvenile court, the relative or non-relative must obtain custody or permanent guardianship, and the family must remain in Florida. For further information contact the local post-adoption services counselor, contact information is at http://www.adoptflorida.org/contactPACounselor.shtml.
25. Does Florida offer a tuition waiver program?
Children who exit foster care by themselves at age 18, are in the custody of a relative at age 18, or are adopted from the Department of Children and Families after May 5, 1997 are eligible for Florida’s tuition wavier program. This program is valid at Florida’s public universities, public community colleges and public vocational schools until the child is age 28. The students are exempt from paying tuition and fees, including lab fees. No money changes hands; eligible students are simply not charged these fees. For further information contact the local post-adoption services counselor, contact information is at http://www.adoptflorida.org/contactPACounselor.shtml.
Youth may also be eligible for the Post-Secondary Educational Support and Services if they were adopted at age 16 or 17 and are enrolled in a post secondary school. Frequently Asked Question about the program can be found on pages 9-13 on this web page, http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/indliving/docs/faqs.pdf.
26. Does Florida offer a state adoption tax credit?
27. Does Florida have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?
If the adoptee has a relative who would like to adopt the child, the new adoptive parent(s) can sign a new adoption subsidy agreement before adoption finalization and the child’s eligibility for adoption subsidy and Adoption Assistance Medicaid would continue. If the adoptee has no relatives who are willing to adopt, the child would placed in foster care with a goal of adoption and a new adoptive family would be located via child specifc and targetd recruitment efforts.
28. What else differentiates Florida’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?
A family who adopts a child without adoption assistance will be asked to sign an Adoption Subsidy Disclaimer form, indicating that the adoption assistance program has been explained and the family has decided to not request adoption assistance.