Updated February 2017
Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Georgia. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.
Mr. Adrian J. Owens
DHS/Social Services Administration Unit
2 Peachtree St. NW, Ste. 8-400
Atlanta, GA 30303
D. Suzette Brown
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 Georiga. 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://dfcs.dhr.georgia.gov/ (choose Services from the menu at left then click on Adoption)
Georgia state-specific medical assistance:
Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?
1. How does Georgia define special needs to determine eligibility?
A child with special needs is defined as a child that has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to placement or adoption without financial assistance.
As of March 1, 2010, a child will meet the special needs definition if he or she:
- has been in the care of a public or private agency or individual other than the legal or biological parent for more than 24 consecutive months;
- has a physical, mental, or emotional disability, as validated by a licensed physician or psychologist; OR
- is a member of a sibling group of two or more placed in the same home.
Children must be legally free for adoption to be eligible for adoption assistance. To be eligible for Title IV-E adoption assistance, the state must determine that the child cannot or should not return home to the birth parent(s) and that reasonable efforts to place the child without adoption assistance have been made (except when contrary to the child’s best interest).
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 not be eligible for Title IV-E,
- must be a child with special needs as defined above,
- must be legally free for adoption, and
- have been in the permanent custody of the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Georgia eligible for adoption assistance?
Only federal (title IV-E) adoption assistance is available to children in the custody of private agencies at this time. Children placed through private agencies or attorneys are ineligible for state-funded adoption assistance. Special Services Adoption Assistance are not available to children adopted from private agencies or attorneys.
What Supports and Services Are Available?
4. What is the maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in Georgia?
These rates are effective July 1, 2009 for new subsidy agreements only.
5. Does Georgia provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?
If a child receives a specialized family foster care rate, a foster care worker can submit an application to the Social Services Adminstration Unit (SSAU) for consideration for a specialized adoption assistance per diem based on the child’s exceptional special needs. Specialized adoption assistance rates are dependent on the child’s current level of functioning.
Adoption assistance payments can be up to 100 percent of the DHS/DFCS family foster care per diem that the child was receiving immediately before the adoptive placement. (DHS/DFCS specialized family foster care rates may be lower than a private therapeutic foster care agency’s rates.)
6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?
For children involved with Georgia DFCS, adoption assistance benefits may begin at the time of adoptive placement. For children not involved with DFCS (private/independent adoption), adoption assistance benefits begin when the adoption has finalized.
Listed below are the criteria for adoption assistance eligibility over age 18. If a youth does not meet the criteria below, then assistance ends in the month of the child’s 18th birthday. The latest a youth can receive assistance is the month of her 21st birthday.
For youth over 18 who are still in high school:
- For an adopted child to be eligible for continued assistance the child must have been in the permanent custody of DFCS (both biological parents’ parental rights were terminated and DFCS had sole custody of the child when the adoption occurred), or was placed from the temporary custody of DFCS (DFCS initiated TPR) with the relative/fictive kin for the purpose of adoption.
- If a child meets the eligibility requirements above, then he must document that he is in school full time (not GED or Job Corp) by providing quarterly verification on school letterhead.
- The adoption assistance ends when:
- the child graduates from high school (through the graduation month),
- the child drops out of high school (through the month the child drops out only),
- the child turns 21 while still in high school (through the child’s birth month)
For youth over 18 who are in college or technical school:
- For an adopted child to be eligible for continued assistance she must have been adopted with an adoption assistance agreement and either: (1) adopted before July 1998, OR (2) adopted after July 1998 with the adoption after her 13th birthday. The child must also have been in the permanent custody of DFCS (both biological parents’ parental rights were terminated and DFCS had sole custody of the child when the adoption occurred), or was placed from the temporary custody of DFCS (DFCS initiated TPR) with the relative/fictive kin for the purpose of adoption.
- If the child meets the eligibility requirements above, then they must document that they are in school full time by providing verification quarterly on school letterhead.
- The adoption assistance ends when:
- the youth fails to provide quarterly verification of full-time enrollment
- the youth turns 21 (If still in school, the child can receive adoption assistance through the child’s birth month.)
- the youth drops out of school (The child can receive adoption assistance through the month the child drops out.)
8. Does Georgia offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
Yes, Georgia offers deferred agreements for children who have been in the permanent custody of DFCS, or for children for whom DFCS terminated parental rights and transferred legal custody to a relative or individual for the purpose of adoption.
If a child does not meet the definition of a child with special needs before adoption finalization, a deferred adoption assistance application is completed by the adopting parent(s) for a $0 dollar amount. The deferred agreement will not come with Medicaid. If the child is later diagnosed with a physical, mental, emotional, or medical condition by a licensed provider, the family can request another special needs determination from the local DFCS office. All approvals/denials are completed by the Social Services Administration Unit (SSAU). No adoption assistance payment will exceed the basic foster care rate the child received in family foster care before adoptive placement. Medicaid coverage will begin when adoption assistance payments are approved by SSAU.
9. What Medicaid services are available in Georgia?
The state contact for eligibility questions is Teresa Johnson, 404-657-7263, and the contact for questions on services is Yvonne Dove, 404-463-2135.
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.)
A child receiving state-funded adoption assistance is eligible for state-funded Medicaid in Georgia.
PLEASE NOTE: For state funded children placed with an adoptive family in another state or moves with the adoptive family to another state, Georgia is not responsible for medical coverage. Families should inquire about COBRA reciprocity prior to moving out of Georgia.
11. What mental health services are available?
Public mental health services for children in Georgia are administered by the Department of Community Health (DCH), Division of Medical Assistance and may include psychological services, inpatient hospital services, mental health clinic services, targeted case management for the chronically mentally ill, therapeutic residential intervention, and pharmacy services. For more information, visit http://dch.georgia.gov/02/dch/home/0,2467,31446711,00.html.
12. In Georgia, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?
Nonrecurring expenses of up to $1,500 per child may include reasonable and necessary legal fees/court costs, travel/lodging/meals (as part of pre-placement visits) and physicals for adoptive parent(s) as part of the adoption home assessment directly related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs.
Reimbursement for nonrecurring expenses will be made only after the adoption is finalized. Documentation of expenses must be provided before payment.
13. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
Special Services Adoption Assistance does not cover child care.
Low income families who live in Georgia and who are in need of subsidized child care services should contact the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) office in the county where they live to learn about and apply for the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program. Families complete an application during an initial child care appointment. If funding is not available, families may be placed on a waiting list. The DFCS office will contact families to begin the application process as funds become available. More information about CAPS is available at www.georgia.gov.
14. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
Special Services Adoption Assistance may cover respite care of up to 20 hours per month per family for children.
Many private organizations offer respite options. Search for Georgia resources in the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service (http://chtop.org/ARCH/National-Respite-Locator.html). Additional information about respite care is available from the Georgia Center for Adoption Resources and Support (see question 16 for contact information).
15. Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?
Families requiring residential treatment should contact their county social service office or mental health center. Funding is dependent on meeting specific eligibility criteria and availability of funds. Families must be Georgia residents to be eligible for this service.
Any child is eligible whether or not initially in Georgia DHS custody. If the child is receiving adoption assistance from Georgia, the family will be asked to contribute a portion of the adoption assistance toward the cost of the placement as they are still legally and financially responsible for the child.
Post-adoption services in Georgia are administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS) thorough the DFCS, Social Services Administration Unit and community resources. Services include the following:
- Georgia Center for Adoption Resources and Support (tutoring referrals, lending library, training and referrals to adoptive parent support groups).
- A-Team (teen support group)
- Crisis Intervention Team (in-home therapeutic intervention, family case management)
- Adoption Reunion Registry
Parents should contact the Georgia Center for Adoption Resources and Support (http://www.gaadoptionresources.org; 1-866-A-Parent/1-866-272-7368) for information on resources, support groups, and local and statewide adoption related activities. The local county departments may also have a local listing that adoptive families may call.
Special Services Adoption Assistance may provide a time-limited or one-time special service when no other family or community resource is available, but not child care.
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?
No. Special Services may be applied for any time after the child is placed on adoptive status. Families apply for Special Services through the county that pays their adoption assistance.
What Should Families Know About Applying for Subsidy?
18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
The local county DFCS.
19. Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
Parents apply for adoption assistance at the local DFCS county office. All determinations of special needs, approvals, and denials are made by the Social Services Administration Unit (SSAU) at the State Office. SSAU will notify the caseworker submitting the documentation of the approval or denial. The agreement will be entered into after SSAU approves the agreement and the local DFCS representative and parents sign the agreement.
To start the process, families should contact the county where they live (visit http://dfcs.dhr.georgia.gov/ and click on County Offices in the left menu) or contact Adrian J. Owens at 404-657-3558.
How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?
21. Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?
Georgia policy does not allow for an increase in the adoption assistance benefit beyond the amount the child received in family foster care immediately before the adoptive placement. However, the family may have other requests such as post-adoption services, referrals for community or agency resources, a change of address, etc. Parents should make any requests or notifications to the regional post adoption manager.
If the child has been placed for adoption but not finalized, they should contact their case manager, the supervisor or county director (see the link under question 20 for contacts).
22. What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Georgia?
Adoptive families can request a fair hearing any time there is a disagreement with a DFCS decision affecting their child’s adoption assistance agreement. Parents should contact their local county DFCS to request a fair hearing (see link under question 20 for contacts).
All requests must be made in writing and provided to the county DFCS case manager who will send a formal referral to the Legal Services Department of DHS for processing. DHS in turn forwards the request to the Office of State Administrative Hearings.
The Office of State Administrative Hearings will notify the family, in writing, of the date and location of the hearing. Hearings are usually held in the family’s county of residence. Parents can requests an administrative hearing by telephone by writing to the fair hearing officer identified in the hearing notice.
After the Office of State Administrative State Hearings receives a request for a fair hearing, a notice giving the date, time, and place of the hearing is sent to adoptive parents before the hearing. The notice also will tell parents what to do if they cannot come to the hearing as scheduled. Families may bring witnesses, friends, relatives, or a lawyer to help them present their case. The hearing officer will listen to both sides but will not make a decision at the hearing. Parents will receive a written decision in the mail, issued by the hearing authority, a few weeks later. Parents should receive a hearing decision within 90 days of their hearing request. The hearing officer will record the hearing so that the facts are taken down correctly. After the hearing decision is issued, parents can get a free copy of the tape by contacting the hearings section. If parents disagree with the hearing decision, the written decision sent to them will explain how to ask for an administrative appeal of the decision.
For more information, download the Office of State Administrative Hearings regarding Procedural Rules and Legal Resources at https://osah.ga.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/administrative-rules-osah.pdf
What Else do Families Need to Know?
23. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Georgia?
The state (SSAU) supervises policy writing, consultation, and some training. Counties administer the adoption program. Initial applications for adoption assistance and requests for non-recurring adoption expenses are approved at the state level and administered at the county level. All requests for Special Services Adoption Assistance are approved at the state level.
The federal contribution (the Federal Financial Participation/FFP rate) for Title IV-E-eligible children is 65.93% in Georgia. The remaining cost of the program is funded entirely with state funds.
24. Does Georgia operate a subsidized guardianship program?
25. Does Georgia offer a tuition waiver program?
Georgia does not pay college tuition for adopted children. However, adoption assistance may be provided in certain circumstances for children ages 18 to 21 who are in college or technical school (see question 7).
26. Does Georgia offer a state adoption tax credit?
Georgia has a credit of $2,000 per child per tax year for children who were adopted since January 1, 2008 and were adopted from DHR foster care,. The credit is available beginning with the year the child was adopted and ends in the year the child turns 18. Families must complete an Individual Income Tax Credit form IND-CR 208 (https://dor.georgia.gov/years-individual-income-tax-forms) to claim this credit.
27. Does Georgia 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?
Usually the checks are to parents by the 10th of the month. Georgia has electronic payment through direct deposit or debit cards. For families that want to switch to electronic payments from paper payments, they can contact their county of residence to set that up. For families that are having problems with their payments they should contact Mr. Adrian Owens at 404-463-3735 or email@example.com.
29.What else differentiates Georgia’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?