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 Minnesota. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.
Heidi Ombisa Skallet (for policy questions for adoption assistance, including eligibility)
Department of Human Services
PO Box 64944
St. Paul MN 55164-0944
St. Paul, MN 55114-1149
651-644-3036 or 800-470-6665
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 which 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 and the child’s special needs. 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 Minnesota. 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 Staff (listed above) for more information.
For more information on Title IV-E eligibility, view our fact sheet Eligibility and Benefits for Federal Adoption Assistance.
Minnesota Adoption Resources on the Web:
Minnesota state-specific medical assistance resources
See related links under Children/Quick Links/Health Care Programs at:
Minnesota county contact information
For a list of contact information by county/tribe, view:
For general contact information about adoption, visit:
Minnesota Statutes, section 256N.23, Northstar Adoption Assistance:
Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.601 through 260C.637, Adoption of Children Under Guardianship of Commissioner:
Minnesota Rules, Chapter 9560.0010 through 9560.0180:
Who Is Eligible for Adoption Assistance?
1. How does Minnesota define special needs to determine eligibility?
A child is considered to have special needs under this section if the following three criteria are met:
- There has been a determination that the child cannot or should not be returned to the home of the child’s parents as evidenced by at least one of the following:
- A court-ordered termination of parental rights
- A petition to terminate parental rights
- A consent of parent to adoption accepted by the court
- In circumstances where tribal law permits the child to be adopted without a termination of parental rights, a judicial determination by tribal court indicating the valid reason why the child cannot or should not return home
- A voluntary relinquishment under Minnesota law (Statute 259.25 or 259.47) or, if relinquishment occurred in another state, the applicable laws in that state
- The death of the legal parent
- Due to the following characteristics or circumstances it would be difficult to provide the child an adoptive home without adoption assistance:
- The child is a member of a sibling group to be adopted at the same time by the same parent(s).
- The child has been determined by the Social Security Administration to meet all medical or disability requirements of Title XVI of the Social Security Act with respect to eligibility for Supplemental Security Income benefits.
- The child has documented physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disability not covered under 2 above.
- The child has a high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities. (Note: When a child’s eligibility for adoption assistance is based upon the high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities, payments shall not be made under the adoption assistance agreement unless and until the potential disability upon which eligibility for the agreement was based manifests itself as documented by an appropriate professional.)
- The child is placed for adoption in the home of a parent who previously adopted another child born of the same mother or father and for whom the parent receives adoption assistance.
- A placement agency has made reasonable, but unsuccessful efforts to place the child for adoption without adoption assistance as evidenced by a documented search for an adoptive placement or a determination by the State that a search is not in the best interests of the child. The documented search requirement must be waived if at least one of the following applies:
- The child’s relative, as defined in Minnesota law (Statute 260C.007, subd. 27), desires to adopt the child
- The child’s licensed foster parents, with whom the child has developed significant emotional ties while in their care as a foster child, desire to adopt the child
- The family that previously adopted a child of the same mother or father desires to adopt the child
In all three circumstances, the placing agency must determine that the adoption is in the child’s best interest. Additionally, a waiver may not be granted for an Indian child covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) unless the placing agency has complied with the placement preferences under ICWA.
Once the legally responsible agency has determined that adoption by a specific prospective adoptive parent is in the best interests of the child, and the agency has fully disclosed the child’s social and medical history, the agency must then ask the prospective adoptive parent if the prospective adoptive parent is willing to adopt the child without adoption assistance. The agency must document the answer (yes or no).
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 both of the following criteria:
- Be determined to be a child with special needs as explained in question 1 above
- Have had foster care payments paid on his or her behalf while in out-of-home placement through the county or tribe, and be either under the guardianship of the commissioner or under the jurisdiction of a Minnesota tribe, with adoption in accordance with tribal law as the child’s documented permanency plan
3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Minnesota eligible for adoption assistance?
Children adopted from private agencies are eligible for Title IV-E adoption assistance if they meet the factors or conditions in question 1. Children adopted from private agencies are not eligible for state-funded adoption assistance.
What Supports and Services Are Available?
The adoption assistance program in Minnesota underwent a significant change as of January 1, 2015, with the implementation of Northstar Care of Children. Children adopted before that date have one set of maintenance rates and possible reimbursement options, which are described in question 28. Here in questions 4 and 5 is the information for children adopted on or after January 1, 2015.
|Age||Children adopted at age 6 or older||Children adopted at age 0-5|
Yes. Supplemental rates are determined based on the child’s strengths and needs and the level of parenting needed to meet the child’s needs and support the child’s functioning in the home and community. The placing agency social worker completes an individualized determination using the Minnesota Assessment of Parenting for Children and Youth (MAPCY) to determine the supplemental level.
The rates below are effective January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. Rates will be revised annually beginning July 1, 2016, based on the Estimates of the Cost of Raising a Child published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
|Level||Children adopted at age 6 or older||Children adopted at age 0-5|
6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits begin at or shortly after adoption finalization.
7. When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?
All adoption assistance agreements end when a youth turns 18. However, if a child has not completed a secondary education plan and is enrolled in a secondary education program or a program leading to the equivalent, or is incapable of living independently because of a physical or mental disability, the agreement may be able to be extended up to age 21 if the child depends on the adoptive parent for care and financial support. For children adopted at age 16 or older, in addition to these two circumstances, adoption assistance may also be extended if the child is enrolled in a postsecondary or vocational institution, participating in a program designed to remove barriers to or promote employment, or working at least 80 hours per month, provided that the child is dependent on the adoptive parent for both care and financial support.
Before the youth’s 18th birthday, the DHS adoption assistance program will send a letter to the adoptive parent(s) providing instructions on how to apply for an extension. Requests for extension of the agreement must be received by the program before the end date of the agreement (the youth’s 18th birthday).
8. Does Minnesota offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
Yes. In Minnesota, a deferred adoption assistance agreement is typically referred to as an at-risk only agreement. With this type of agreement no monthly payments or reimbursements are made. There are two benefits that adoptive parents are able to receive with an at-risk agreement.
- Medical Assistance
- A one-time reimbursement, up to $2,000 per child, for expenses directly related to the adoption (see question 12).
9. What Medicaid services are available in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, Medicaid is known as Medical Assistance. Enrollees obtain all their services directly from enrolled medical providers or from a health plan, which they choose when they enroll in the program. If the adoptive family has dependent coverage through private insurance, the family may be required to use the private insurance as a child’s primary insurance and Medical Assistance as secondary coverage. Families should contact the child’s Medical Assistance worker to further discuss these possibilities and to determine which services are covered. (If a family does not know the child’s Medical Assistance worker, they should contact the Medicaid agency in their county of residence and request that information.)
General questions about Medical Assistance can be directed to the Minnesota Health Care Programs help desk at (651) 431-2670 (Twin Cities metro area) or (800) 657-3739 (outside the metro area).
For additional questions on covered services, contact the primary provider, the primary health care plan, or the above numbers.
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 with state-funded adoption assistance agreements who reside in Minnesota are provided medical coverage through Medical Assistance due to their special need for medical or rehabilitative care. Children with state-funded adoption assistance agreements who reside outside of Minnesota are provided Medicaid through their state of residence, if that state has reciprocity with Minnesota and a child meets the Medicaid eligibility requirements in the state of residence.
If there is no reciprocity or a child does not meet Medicaid eligibility requirements in the state of residence, Medical Assistance will be provided through Minnesota. Coverage is limited to providers authorized by Minnesota’s Medical Assistance program according to program rules in Minnesota.
11. What mental health services are available?
Some mental health services for children may be available through Medical Assistance or the family’s private insurance. Families should contact their insurance provider for more information about coverage.
Children’s mental health services are administered through the county social service agency in a child’s county of residence and through the local Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives. Children’s Mental Health Case Management is a program designed to help severely emotionally disturbed children and their families by assessing a child’s mental health needs and identifying and accessing appropriate services. Families should contact the social service agency in their county of residence to check on their eligibility for Children’s Mental Health Case Management.
Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives were established in response to concerns that children who have or are at risk of having severe emotional disturbances often require services from multiple service systems. The Collaboratives use a wraparound service model to coordinate services.
Parents can learn more at:
Parents may receive reimbursement of up to $2,000 per child for reasonable, necessary costs directly related to the legal adoption of a child. Reimbursable costs include agency adoption fees (including health and psychological exams); transportation, food, and lodging for child and adoptive parents necessary to complete the adoptive placement or the legal adoption process; court costs related to finalization of the adoption; replacement birth certificate fees; and fees for copies of the adoption decree.
Parents should contact the placing agency to complete the certification and agreement. A non-recurring adoption expense reimbursement agreement must be approved by DHS before adoption finalization.
All children adopted with adoption assistance agreements from Minnesota have non-recurring adoption expense reimbursement built into their adoption assistance agreement; it is not necessary to execute a separate agreement.
In addition to the non-recurring adoption expenses program, the state of Minnesota may pay for alterations to the family home or vehicle to accommodate a child’s special physical needs; three itemized estimates of the cost must be submitted with requests to make changes.
13. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
Children who were adopted on or after January 1, 2015, do not receive direct child care support through the adoption assistance program. Rather, the MAPCY assessment determines whether any supplemental payment should include an allowance for child care, based on the age of the child (0-12 only), the caregiver’s need for child care due to work or education, and the caregiver’s access to other sources including the child care assistance program. Please note that any supplemental benefit available for child care needs is unlikely to cover the full cost of child care.
For children adopted before January 1, 2015, reimbursement for child care may be available. See question 28 for more information.
14. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
Children who were adopted on or after January 1, 2015 do not receive direct respite care support through the adoption assistance program. The supplemental monthly payment is calculated to include the costs of respite when necessary.
For children adopted before January 1, 2015, reimbursement for respite may be available. See question 28 for more information.
15. Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?
The adoption assistance program does not reimburse for the cost of residential treatment. Adoptive families may seek residential treatment placement through the county social service agency in their child’s county of residence. The county, typically through children’s mental health services, makes independent assessments about whom they will authorize for placement in residential treatment. Adoptive families may have coverage for residential treatment through their private insurance and need to coordinate coverage with their Medical Assistance insurance.
For children who reside in Minnesota and have an adoption assistance agreement with Minnesota, state rules prohibit assessment of a parental fee based on the family’s income. As adoption assistance is considered the child’s income, the county will often seek to receive the adoption assistance payments while a child is in placment.
16. What other post-adoption services are available in Minnesota and how do families find out more about them?
Post-adoption services in Minnesota are funded by DHS and administered by two nonprofit organizations:
- MN Adopt offers an adoption website, information and referral, training, and the HELP program. HELP provides clinical support from adoption specialists, referral to adoption-competent mental health providers, and potential financial assistance to adoptive families facing financial barriers to mental health treatment. More information is available at http://www.mnadopt.org.
- The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) offers peer support to adoptive parents and adopted children and youth. Services include in-person adoption groups for adoptees and support groups for adoptive parents, special events for adoptive families, online groups for adoptive parents, and limited one-on-one support from experienced adoptive parents. More information is available at http://www.nacac.org/postadopt/asn.html.
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?
What Should Families Know about Applying for Adoption assistance?
18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
The placing agency (either a county social service agency, a tribal social service agency, or a licensed private adoption agency) is responsible for certifying a child as eligible for adoption assistance and discussing with the adoptive parents the need for adoption assistance. The agency completes the appropriate paperwork and submits it to the adoption assistance program on behalf of a child and family.
19. Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
The final eligibility determination is made by the state and is approved and signed by an agent of the commissioner.
20. How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?
Please contact the Adoption unit at 651-431-4659.
How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?
21. Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?
Parents can make a request for a change in the adoption assistance agreement any time a child’s condition or circumstances change. Adoptive parents should contact their county social service agency for instructions on how to request a modification.
If a child whose eligibility for adoption assistance is based solely upon the high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities develops the disability upon which eligibility was based, the adoption assistance agreement may be amended to include monthly payments and reimbursement for non-medical services or special costs. Parents should contact the county social service agency for details.
22. What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Minnesota?
Adoptive parents have the right to request a fair hearing any time they experience a denial, modification, or termination of an adoption assistance agreement. The request for a fair hearing must be submitted in writing within 30 days after the parents receive written notice of the contested action or decision. If the parents can show good cause why the request was not submitted within the 30-day time limit, the deadline can be extended to 90 days. To appeal an agency decision, adoptive parents should submit a written request for a hearing to:
Minnesota Department of Human Services
PO Box 64941
St. Paul, MN 55164-0941
What Else Do Families Need to Know?
23. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Minnesota?
The adoption assistance program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Adoption placing agencies make eligibility determinations and prepare adoption assistance paperwork before finalization and, at the program’s request, modification of the agreement post-finalization. After the adoption has been finalized, an adoptive family’s primary contact regarding their adoption assistance agreement should be their adoption assistance staff worker.
The federal contribution for Title IV-E-eligible children (known as the Federal Financial Participation or FFP) is 50 percent in Minnesota. The remaining cost of the program is funded with state and local funds.
24. Does Minnesota operate a subsidized guardianship program?
Yes, called Northstar kinship assistance. Under this program, children and youth who leave care for permanent legal and physical custody by their relatives are eligible for the same level of benefits as children adopted from care. See questions 4 and 5 for rates.
Kinship assistance does not require a special needs determination; however, it does require that the child live with the licensed relative custodian for a period of 6 months.
25. Does Minnesota offer a tuition waiver program?
No. However, the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program provides funding for post-secondary education and training programs to current and former foster youth, including youth adopted after their 16th birthday . Youth must be accepted into an accredited post-secondary education or training program and be under age 21 at the time of their first application.
For more information on the program, including additional eligibility requirements, and to get an ETV application, go to the ETV program website at http://mn.gov/dhs/people-we-serve/children-and-families/services/adolescent-services/programs-services/education-and-training-voucher.jsp.
Program information can also be provided by:
Jill Von Holtum
Education and Training Voucher Coordinator
Minnesota Department of Human Services
Child Safety and Permanency Division
PO Box 64943
St. Paul, MN 55164-0943
26. Does Minnesota offer a state adoption tax credit?
27. Does Minnesota have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?
Yes, through state-funded adoption assistance. If the adoptive parent(s) of a child receiving state-funded adoption assistance dies, it may be possible for the adoption assistance agreement to be transferred to a court-appointed guardian, provided the commissioner provides written consent, for a period of six consecutive months. If at the end of this period, the child has not been adopted and the court has not appointed a permanent legal guardian, the adoption assistance must end. Guardians should contact the adoption assistance program for more information.
Children adopted before January 1, 2015, receive different benefits from those adopted on or after that date. Below we detail the benefits available to children adopted before January 1, 2015. For information on rates for children adopted since January 1, 2015, see questions 4 and 5.
Basic Monthly Rates for Children Adopted before January 1, 2015
|19-21 (if the adoption assistance agreement is extended to these ages)||$337|
Supplemental Monthly Rates for Children Adopted before January 1, 2015
A supplemental adoption assistance payment may be added to the basic maintenance needs payment when a child has a diagnosed physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disability that requires care, supervision, and structure beyond that ordinarily provided in a family setting to children of the same age. The amount of the payment is based on the severity of a child’s needs and the effect of those needs on the adoptive family.
The placing agency social worker completes an individualized determination of a child’s needs and the effect of his or her needs on the adoptive family to determine the supplemental level.
Additional Reimbursement for Children Adopted before January 1, 2015
Reimbursement is available for certain non-medical services and special costs required to meet a child’s special needs as documented in their adoption assistance certification and corresponding supporting documentation. Possible reimbursements are limited to those listed below. The program has specific rules for each reimbursement, so, depending on an individual child’s needs and family’s situation, a child may or may not be eligible for all of the reimbursements listed.
- Services prescribed by a physician, psychologist, or developmental specialist for children under age three who are developmentally delayed, and the services are not available through the public school system
- Child care during the hours of employment, training, or education of the adoptive parents; the maximum reimbursement is the amount the county social service agency would pay for a trained caregiver in the home or in a licensed daycare facility or the amount the adoptive parents would pay under the child care sliding fee program
- Family counseling required to meet a child’s needs; the reimbursement is limited to amount insurance will not cover because the counseling includes the family
- Post-adoption counseling to promote a child’s integration into the adoptive family; the reimbursement is limited to 12 sessions in the year following the adoption finalization
- Respite care; the reimbursement limited to a maximum of 504 hours annually at the respite rate set by the county social service agency
- A portion of burial expenses of up to $1,000, if a child’s special needs result in their death
- Camping programs adapted to meet a child’s special needs; limited to two weeks of camp per year
- Specialized communication equipment prescribed through the public school district, but not covered by educational, vocational, or other rehabilitation services
Adoptive parents must receive advance authorization for any of the reimbursement options listed above. Reimbursements are subject to adoption assistance program rules, and adoptive parents may be required to request services through their county social service agency and local resources before receiving reimbursement from the adoption assistance program. Eligibility for services from the county social service agency may be considered in authorizing approval for reimbursement.
When a child’s eligibility for adoption assistance is based upon the high risk of developing physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities, no reimbursement for non-medical services or special costs will be made unless and until the potential disability arises and is documented by an appropriate professional. The commissioner must authorize reimbursement and DHS must modify the adoption assistance agreement accordingly.