Updated November 2020

Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Maine. 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

Karen Benson
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
19 Maine Avenue
Bangor, ME  04401

NACAC Volunteer

Travis Bryant
Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine Inc. and the Kinship Program
Bangor ME

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 Maine. 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:

Maine’s state-specific medical assistance:

Maine rules for the adoption assistance program

Scroll down to 10 148 Office of Child and Family Services, then click on the link for Ch. 13 Rules for the Adoption Assistance Program. This will download a small Word document.

Maine Child and Family Services Policy, Section VIII. C. Adoption Assistance


Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?

1. How does Maine 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 adoption without financial assistance. A child must:

  • Be five years of age or older
  • Be of minority ethnic/racial background
  • Be a member of a sibling group of two or more children placed in the same household, which includes at least sibling who meets another hard to place criteria
  • Have a physical, mental, or emotional handicap
  • Have a medical condition
  • Be at risk for future emotional difficulties due to having been a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or neglect
  • Be at risk for future problems due to factors in his family background such as severe mental illness, substance abuse, prostitution, genetic or medical conditions or illnesses

Children must be legally free for adoption and in the custody of the state of Maine, a tribe, or other licensed child-placing agency to be eligible for adoption assistance.

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


3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Maine eligible for subsidies?

Children adopted through the tribes receive assistance if the children are eligible. Children adopted through private agencies may apply for non-recurring adoption expenses if the child has special needs and the agency follows all required recruitment procedures.

What Supports and Services Are Available?

Monthly Payments

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

Rates for adoption assistance are negotiated for each child based on the child’s needs and the family’s circumstances from $0 to $26.25 per day.

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

Maine offers an exceptional medical rate ($60 per day) for medically fragile children with a high level of medical need:

  • that does or could lead to care in an “intermediate care nursing facility”
  • where the issues will not improve and may become more severe over time and require specialized care to support activities of daily living.
  • where the parent has obtained the training necessary to meet the child’s medical needs and is directly providing that level of care.

Examples of children who meet this criteria are children who require a feeding tube, have congenital heart disease/abnormalities requiring surgery and monitoring, weekly to monthly hospital/specialist monitoring, need kidney dialysis, have severe forms of cancer, and/or severe failure to thrive with long range effects.

6. When do subsidy payments begin?

Adoption assistance benefits may begin at adoption placement after the agreement has been signed by all parties.

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

At the state’s option, adoption assistance may be provided until age 21 for children if the Department determines based on all available information that the support is necessary. Eligible children are those who are in need of educational benefits or have severe physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.

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


Medical Care

9. What Medicaid services are available in Maine?

For information on Maine’s services, contact MaineCare at 1-800-977-6740, option 2 or 1-800-977-6741 TDD/TTY.

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

Non-IV-E children receive the same Medicaid benefits as IV-E children.

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

Public mental health services for children up to age 21 in Maine are administered through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Child and Family Services, Children’s Behavioral Health program. Children’s Behavioral Health, link: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/support-for-families/childrens-behavioral-health.

Children’s Behavioral health services include:

  • Rehabilitative and Community Support Services for Children with Cognitive Impairments and Functional Limitations
  • Case Management-MaineCare*
  • Crisis Services
  • Outpatient-MaineCare*
  • Medication Management-MaineCare*
  • Home & Community Treatment Services (HCT-MaineCare*)
  • Intense 24/7 symptom management and supports in home, school and community
  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT-MaineCare*)
  • Intensive Temporary Residential Treatment (ITRT)
  • NAMI Maine Family Respite

The Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) supports Maine’s children and their families by providing Children’s Behavioral Health, Child Welfare, Early Intervention & Prevention Services, and Operations.

Service Areas of the Office of Child and Family Service:

Children’s Behavioral Health Services – Children’s Behavioral Health services focus on behavioral health treatment and services for children from birth up to their 21st birthday. Services include providing information and assistance with referrals for children and youth with developmental disabilities/delays, intellectual disability, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and mental health disorders.

Early Intervention & Prevention Services – OCFS early intervention and prevention services seek to promote the health, well-being and safety of children and families by reducing the risk and effect of adverse childhood experiences (such as neglect, trauma, or exposure to violence). Administering best practice services that create a community of caring for intergenerational members focused on increasing protective factors such as health, education, safety promotion, social connections and family strengthening supports.

For more information regarding behavioral health services please visit the Office of Child and Family Services: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/.

Other Benefits

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

The Department will reimburse up to $2,000 per child for reasonable and necessary nonrecurring adoption expenses, including: adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, and other expenses (the adoption study, health and psychological examinations, costs of placement supervision prior to adoption, and the costs of transportation and food/lodging necessary to complete the placement process) that are directly related to the legal adoption of an eligible child with special needs.

Adoptive families must sign an agreement with the Department for reimbursement of nonrecurring expenses before the final adoption decree. All claims for reimbursement must be filed within two years of the final decree.

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

Adoptive families should contact the Child Care Voucher program for possible funding at 207-624-7900.

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

No formal program is offered by the adoption assistance program, but some adopted children qualify for one weekend per month of respite through the Children’s Behavioral Health or and Child Developmental Services. The Adoption Assistance office can provide referral information.

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service (http://archrespite.org/respitelocator), search by state to locate Maine’s respite programs

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

Residential placement or treatment (including specialized foster care provided through a mental health facility or other agency) is the legal responsibility of the Division of Children’s Behavioral Health (CBHS). The adoption subsidy program provides Medicaid, which pays for the treatment costs; the Department of Education pays for the educational costs; and CBHS pays for the remaining room and board costs.

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

Maine’s philosophy is that adoption is a lifelong experience and the needs of the adoptive family change over time. Children placed through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), who have their permanency needs met through adoption, should have access to ongoing support through information and resources, as needed, throughout their lives. Agency services should remain available to adoptive families after legalization of adoption upon request of the adoptive family and as resources permit.

Some post-adoption services in Maine are administered by the Department of Health & Human Services through an eight-district system of DHHS and parent-sponsored programs.

A listing of resources and services available can be found in “A Guide to Adoption Services in Maine” at: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/adoption/guidetoadoption.htm

Other organizations that offer post adoption assistance are:

Parents who want post-adoption services for children adopted from the Department of Health & Human Services can apply by phone through the office where the child was adopted or the DHHS office where the child is currently living. To find the DHHS office: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/offices.shtml

Not all services may be available in all cases. Parent should contact their adoption assistance worker or post-adoption services contact for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.

17. If the assistance listed above in questions 11 to 14 are for specific services, must these services be explicitly identified in the adoption assistance agreement?

Yes, if needs are known at the time. It is possible to modify agreements to include specified services for a limited time or for a one time payment of services with Central office approval.

What Should Families Know About Applying for Subsidy?

18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?

The child’s caseworker is normally the one that initiates and negotiates the adoption assistance agreement.

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

The state adoption program specialist (using all information provided by the district office involved) makes the determination.

20. How do families request a subsidy after legalization of an adoption?

Families should contact:

Adoption Program Specialist
Department of Health Human Services
221 State Street
State House, Station 11
Augusta, ME  04333

How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?

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

An adoptive parent can request a change in the adoption assistance agreement any time there are changes in the child’s needs or family’s circumstances. Parents must make request in writing and must document need, using forms supplied by the Department at the time of request. Requests should be made to Adoption Program Specialist (contact information in question 20 above).

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

Any individual who has applied for or is receiving adoption assistance, (or whose application for assistance is not acted upon with reasonable promptness), is entitled to appeal the denial, reduction or termination of adoption assistance made by the Department. To appeal a decision, a written request for a fair hearing must be made to the Commissioner or his designee within 10 days of the decision. The exception to this appeal process is when the Department undertakes a system wide, across the board increase or reduction in the payment systems, rates, or criteria.

You will get a written decision, by mail, from the Hearing Officer approximately 30 days after the hearing is closed.

The decision may take one of two forms. For most hearings, the Hearing Officer’s written decision is the final agency action. For some hearings, the Hearing Officer’s written decision will be a “Recommended Decision.” In this type of case, the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services will have the final say, and will issue a written “Final Decision.”

If you do not agree with the final decision of the Hearing Officer, you can appeal the decision within 30 days, to the Superior Court. If you do not agree with the “Recommended Decision” of the Hearing Officer, you have 15 to 20 days (depending on the type of case) to write to the Commissioner to explain your exceptions to the Recommended Decision. If you do not agree with the Final Decision of the Commissioner, you can appeal the decision within 30 days, to the Superior Court.


For more information—write or call

Maine Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Administrative Hearings
244 Water Street
11 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0011
(207) 624-5350

What Else do Families Need to Know?

23. How is the subsidy program operated and funded in Maine?

The program is state supervised/state administered, with eight district offices. Policy and eligibility decisions are made by personnel at the state office. All caseworkers are in district offices.

The state provides matching funds for Title IV-E eligible children. 

24. Does Maine operate a subsidized guardianship program?

A Permanency Guardianship program was implemented on April 3, 2006.  The subsidy rates will be the same as those offered in adoption assistance.  This is a program only for children who have been in the foster care system. The family must meet all of the same requirements as foster and adoptive families. The program is open to relatives and non-relatives.

25. Does Maine offer a tuition waiver program?

Tuition Waiver—youth who were adopted from foster care AND whose parents are receiving an adoption subsidy from DHHS can apply for one of 30 waivers that can be used at State of Maine Universities, Community Colleges, or Maine Maritime. Waivers are awarded on first come, first served basis—apply early. The applicant must be a Maine resident and must reapply each year. The waiver is available for undergraduate degrees only, up to 5 years. Application available Feb. 1. Administered through FAME (https://www.famemaine.com/maine_grants_loans/tuition-waiver-program/)

ETV Funds—available through DHHS for youth adopted after their 16th birthday. The college or training program must be accredited, student must be making satisfactory progress toward completing their program of study. Some federal restrictions for use of funds. Youth who receive ETV funds at age 21 can receive them until age 23. Awards vary–depending on available funds & need after other financial aid is determined, up to $5000. Youth who receive ETV funds at age 21 can receive them until age 23. Contact Dulcey Laberge 624-7928, Dulcey.laberge@maine.gov

FAFSA—must be completed to access other funds. Finanical Aid given on a first come/first served basis. Must be completed every year. Must get a PIN before or during the application. Beginning in Jan. (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa)

Independent Student Status (FAFSA)—through the College Costs Reduction Act, any youth adopted on or after their 13th birthday is considered “independent” on the FAFSA and do not have to provide parent info (income) or signatures.

Find out more from:
Dulcey Laberge
Youth Transition Specialist
Maine Department of Health and Human Services
2 Anthony Avenue – SHS#11
Augusta, ME 04333

26. Does Maine offer a state adoption tax credit?


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

Upon the death of both adoptive parents, adoption assistance may be transferred to the legal guardian as long as the child continues to be eligible for adoption assistance pursuant to the terms of the most recent adoption assistance agreement with the adoptive parents. The department shall enter into a new assistance agreement with the legal guardian.

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?

Adoption subsidy checks are sent out bi-weekly. Families can receive their adoption subsidy payments via direct deposit.

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

Because of its expansive definition of special needs, Maine qualifies almost all of its children for some level of adoption assistance.

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