Updated September 2020
Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in New Jersey. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.
Betty Berzin, Assistant Director
Department of Children & Families
Division of Child Protection & Permanency (CP&P)
Office of Adoption Operations
50 East State St., CN 717
Trenton, NJ 08625
Subsidy Hotline: 1-800-847-5027
West Milford, NJ 07480-1600
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 New Jersey. 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.
New Jersey state-specific medical assistance infomation:
New Jersey’s adoption assistance information:
http://www.nj.gov/njfosteradopt/services/support/index.html (See Adoption Subsidy)
New Jersey’s Child Protection & Permanency, Vol. IV- Out of Home Placement, Chapter C – Adoption, Subchapter 8 – Adoption Subsidy:
Who Is Eligible for Adoption Assistance?
1. How does New Jersey define special needs to determine eligibility?
A child with special needs is one who has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to adoption without financial assistance:
- A medical or dental condition that will require repeated or frequent hospitalization or treatment.
- A physical disability, by reason of physical defect or deformity, whether congenital or acquired by accident, injury, or disease, that makes or may be expected to make a child totally or partially incapacitated for education or for remunerative (paid) occupation.
- A substantial disfigurement, such as the loss or deformation of facial features, torso, or extremities.
- A professionally diagnosed emotional, mental health, and/or behavioral problem, psychiatric disorder, serious intellectual incapacity, or brain damage that seriously affects the child’s ability to relate to his or her peers or authority figures. This includes, but is not limited to, a developmental disability.
- The child is one of a group of three or more siblings (including half-siblings) and it is considered necessary that the group be placed together, or the child is the third (or additional) sibling placed in the same home, even though his or her siblings do not receive adoption subsidy.
- The child is one of two siblings (including half siblings), one of whom meets any other special needs criteria and it is considered most appropriate that the children be placed together, or the child is an additional sibling being placed in the same home with a sibling receiving subsidy.
- The child is 10 years old or older.
- The child is a member of an ethnic or minority group for whom adoptive homes are not readily available, and is age two or older.*
- The child is under age 5 and is a member of an ethnic or minority group for whom adoptive homes are not readily available* and has been residing for at least one year with a resource parent(s) who is adopting the child, and adoption by this resource parent is the most appropriate plan for the child.
- The child is over age five, and is being adopted by a resource parent(s) with whom he or she has resided for at least one year, and adoption by this resource parent is the most appropriate plan for the child.
- Any other condition of a specific child that may be approved by the CP&P director or designee that is not contrary to federal or state statute and regulations. These conditions may include, but are not limited to:
- Child is at high risk of developmental, educational, or emotional problems secondary to prenatal drug exposure.
- Child has a high risk of genetic predisposition to mental illness due to parental mental health history.
- Child is placed with relative or kin who will not adopt without adoption subsidy.
*For items h and i above, the availability of adoptive families for specific categories of children may change over time, and so these special needs criteria may also change.
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 New Jersey eligible for adoption assistance?
A child placed for adoption with a New Jersey family may be eligible for an adoption subsidy from CP&P if they meet the special needs criteria above and meet the following conditions:
- The child is a New Jersey resident and was placed by a New Jersey licensed adoption agency in New Jersey;
- The child is a New Jersey resident who is not SSI eligible, and was placed by a New Jersey licensed adoption agency in another state; or
- The child is Title IV-E or SSI eligible and was placed with a New Jersey family either by a New Jersey licensed adoption agency or a private adoption agency licensed in another state.
A private adoption agency may request adoption assistance for a child for whom it has custody. The private adoption agency must request a subsidy for the child before the child’s placementto ensure that the adoptive parent(s) is well informed about the child he or she plans to adopt.
CP&P does not provide adoption subsidies for:
- New Jersey children placed in New Jersey by agencies not licensed to practice adoption in New Jersey;
- Private non-agency adoptions;
- Children brought into New Jersey for the sole purpose of qualifying for adoption assistance; and
- International adoptions. (The only exception is for a child who meets the eligibility criteria after the disruption of the adoption.)
What Supports and Services Are Available?
4. What is the maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in New Jersey?
The adoption subsidy is designed to cover only a portion of the cost of raising a child; it is not intended to cover all of the adoptive family’s costs.
5. Does New Jersey provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?
The child’s case manager and prospective adoptive parents together assess the child’s characteristics using a rate assessment tool to help determine any specialized rates that may be provided. Specialized rates must be approved by the office manager and are based on the number of hours the parent has to provide additional or special care for a child based on the child’s needs above and beyond what is typically expected for a child of the same age.
6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin at adoption placement. In private agency cases, if a child is approved for adoption assistance, assistance begins the date CP&P receives the application for adoption assistance from the private agency or the placement date, whichever is later.
7. When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?
CP&P can continue to pay adoption assistance until the child turns 18 years of age or has completed high school, whichever occurs last.
8. Does New Jersey offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
No. An adoptive family may re-apply for adoption subsidy on behalf of a child who was initially found ineligible for adoption assistance. The family may apply for assistance if the child develops problems that would qualify him or her for subsidy and that are traceable to either his or her genetic heritage or pre-adoptive experiences. (See question 20 for more information.)
9. What Medicaid services are available in New Jersey?
For more information, parents can contact the New Jersey Medicaid hotline at 800-356-1561 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dmahs/clients/medicaid/.
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.)
Medicaid benefits are the same.
PLEASE NOTE: For state funded children placed with an adoptive family in another state or moves with the adoptive family to another state, New Jersey is not responsible for medical coverage. Families should inquire about COBRA reciprocity prior to moving out of New Jersey.
11. What mental health services are provided by New Jersey?
Public mental health services for children in New Jersey is administered by the Division of Children’s System of Care (CSOC). CSOC serves children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral health care challenges and their families and children with developmental disabilities. CSOC is committed to providing these services based on the needs of the child and family in a family-centered, community-based environment.
For services or more information, parents can call a 24-hour, toll-free access line at 877-652-7624 or www.performcarenj.org.
12. In New Jersey, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?
If the child being adopted meets eligibility criteria for adoption assistance, the adoptive family can receive reimbursement for up to $2,000 per child for nonrecurring costs associated with finalizing an adoption.
Applications for reimbursement are given to a family at placement, and parents should submit the application after finalization. Eligible expenses are reimbursed to the adoptive parents (no direct payments are made to vendors) except that legal fees are paid directly to the adoption attorney.
International adoptions are not eligible.
13. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
Post Adoption Child Care (PACC) is available for subsidy-eligible preschool children whose adoptions were finalized after January 1, 2005. The benefit is administered and provided by the Division of Family Development (DFD), not CP&P, and is not part of the adoption subsidy program.
The PACC subsidy is not an entitlement, and is only open, if funding is available, to those families meeting the following eligibility criteria:
- Child’s Age: The child must be from birth to six years of age. The child care continues until August 31 in the year that the child turns six or when the child starts full time kindergarten. Children enrolled in half-day kindergarten are eligible for half-day child care.
- Parent Employment/Education: A single adoptive parent or both parents in a two-parent home must meet at least one of the following three criteria:
- Be employed 30 hours or more per week; or
- Participate in a full-time training or education program, defined as:
- 12 or more credit hours per term or the equivalent number of Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) at a college or university,
- 9 or more credit hours or the equivalent number of CEUs during the summer semester, or
- 20 hours or more per week in job training.
- Have a combination of part-time employment, education, and/or training equivalent to full-time participation.
14. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
Respite care is not part of the adoption assistance program, but limited respite is available through individual Post-Adoption Counseling Services (PACs). (See question 16.)
Parents can also search for New Jersey programs in the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service (https://archrespite.org/respitelocator).
15. Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?
Residential treatment costs are not covered through adoption assistance. Families must receive these services through the Division of Children’s System of Care, just as a birth family would.
Division of Children’s System of Care, just as a birth family would.
Adoption assistance can continue to be paid if the child is in treatment-based out-of-home placement, the family selects a private facility, and the family continues to financially support and remain involved with the child.
Post-adoption services in New Jersey are administered by CP&P’s Office of Adoption Operations through contracted, nonprofit agencies. Services may include:
- Information and referral
- Educational programs
- Educational materials
- Support groups
- Respite care
- Adoption registry (search services)
- Behavioral supports
- Post Adoption Counseling Services (PACs) — PACs provide counseling, respite care, or both to the adopted child, the adoptive parents, and any other children in the adoptive family when any of those parties are having difficulty in personal or social adjustment related to the adoption. The Division or the contract agency will determine the type and duration of the counseling based on an individual case assessment. The adoption caseworker refers families to PACs upon finalization. The adoptive family should then work with the agency to obtain these voluntary services.
New Jersey also funds New Jersey ARCH, a post-adoption clearinghouse that provides referral, advocacy, support programs, and other information about adoption. Parents can contact ARCH at http://www.njarch.org, or 877-427-2465.
Families interested in mediation/search services through the DYFS Adoption Registry should visit http://www.njadopt.org (See Registry).
As of July 1, 2012, services currently provided to children and youth with developmental disabilities by the Department of Human Services’ Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) began transferring to DCF. This transition will occur slowly over the next year. Currently, to access services for children and youth with developmental disabilities, parents should call DDD at 800-832-9173.
Not all services may be available in all cases. Parents 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 12 to 16 are for specific services, must these services be explicitly identified in the adoption assistance agreement?
Yes. Services provided by NJ ARCH do not need to be specified in the adoption assistance agreement.
What Should Families Know about Applying for Adoption Assistance?
18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
The adoption caseworker prepares the adoption subsidy request packet and submits it to the Office of Adoption Operations, which decides if the child meets eligibility criteria. If child is found eligible for adoption assistance, the Office of Adoption Operations’ director or a designee will initiate the adoption assistance agreement.
19. Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
The Office of Adoption Operations’ director or designee makes the final determination of a child’s adoption assistance eligibility.
Families should contact the adoption assistance unit in the Office of Adoption Operations (address below) to apply or re-apply for adoption assistance. An adoption subsidy specialist will request documentation as to why the parents believe the child should receive adoption assistance. The assistant director for adoptions will make a decision based on whether the child meets the special needs criteria (see question 1) due to factors that existed before placement.
Department of Children & Families, Division of Child Protection & Permanency Office of Adoption Operations,
50 East State Street, CN 717
Trenton, NJ 08625
How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?
21. Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?
If a subsidy-eligible child develops substantial additional service needs, based upon the condition that made him or her subsidy eligible or that can be traced to either his or her genetic heritage or pre-adoptive experiences, and these needs cannot be met through family or community resources, the adoptive parents may request to renegotiate for increase adoption assistance benefits.
The Office of Adoption Operations will use the Rate Assessment tool will be used to determine if a rate change is indicated. Any change is based on the board rate table in effect at the time of the adoption. If there are extenuating circumstances, a change in the rate level or the rate table may be requested and changed with the approval of the assistant director (or a designee) of the Office of Adoption Operations.
22. What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in New Jersey?
The adoptive parent applying for or receiving adoption assistance for a child has the right under specific circumstances to request an administrative hearing regarding the application process and the denial or changes in subsidy payments or services.
If a request for adoption assistance is not approved, the adoptive parent(s) may make a written request for an Administrative Hearing to the DCF Administrative Hearings Unit (AHU) within 20 calendar days of receiving the letter denying adoption subsidy benefits. The adoptive parent(s) write to:
Administrative Hearings Unit
Department of Children and Families
Office of Legal Affairs
50 East State Street
P.O. Box 717
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
AHU will then advise the adoptive parent(s) of the next steps in the appeal process.
If adoption assistance benefits are terminated, the adoptive parent(s) complete the CP&P Adoption Subsidy Program Dispute Resolution Request Form (page 3 of the CP&P Form 14-227), and return it to the Office of Adoption Operations within 20 calendar days of receiving the letter notifying the family of the termination. The adoptive parent sends the request to:
Department of Children and Families
Office of Adoption Operations
50 East State Street, 5th Floor
P.O. Box 717 (CC# 966)
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
If the adoptive parent(s) fail to return the appeal request form within 20 calendar days, the appeal is denied, and the termination of the subsidy becomes final. After this, the parents can appeal the decision only to the Appellate Division of the State Superior Court.
What Else Do Families Need to Know?
23. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in New Jersey?
The program is state supervised/state administered. Post-adoption services are delivered through the Adoption Subsidy Unit in CP&P’s Office of Adoption Operations, which is supervised by the assistant director of adoptions.
In New Jersey, the federal contribution to Title IV-E-eligible children is 50 percent (known as the Federal Financial Participation or FFP rate). The remaining cost of the program is funded entirely with state funds.
24. Does New Jersey operate a subsidized guardianship program?
Yes. Under the Division’s Kinship Legal Guardianship Subsidy Program (KLG), approved caregivers may receive a financial subsidy when they are granted KLG. Eligibility for KLG is met when a child is placed by CP&P for safety or risk factors, remains with the caregiver for at least 12 consecutive months, and adoption is determined to be neither likely nor feasible. The guardian will receive a comparable rate not to exceed foster care board rate based on the child’s individual needs and the family’s participation in meeting those needs. The child will also receive medical coverage, with no income eligibility for the caregiver. The assistance will generally continue until the child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school, which ever occurs last.
25. Does New Jersey offer a tuition waiver program?
New Jersey offers a college tuition waiver or college scholarship program for foster and adopted youth. Children adopted at age 12 or older are eligible for the New Jersey Foster Care (NJFC) Scholars Program, which is managed by Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS). The NJFC Scholars Program offers assistance with tuition and fees (not room and board) at a public New Jersey college, university, or vocational school.
In addition, tuition assistance for private or out-of-state institutions is available to eligible students through the federal Education and Training Voucher Program.
26. Does New Jersey offer a state adoption tax credit?
27. Does New Jersey have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?
When an adoptive parent(s) dies, adoption assistance payments will be transferred to a new caregiver if the new caregiver demonstrates that he or she has legal responsibility for the child by:
- Being named guardian in the adoptive parent’s will or
- Having obtained custody of the child through a court order.
When notified that an original adoptive parent has died, staff from the CP&P Adoption Subsidy Unit take the following action:
- If two parents adopted the child, change the payment support service to the surviving parent‘s name, or
- If the sole adoptive parent dies, and the child is being cared for by a relative or friend, make a child welfare service referral. The SCR Screener assesses the safety and welfare of the adopted child and background checks on all members of the proposed household who are age 14 and older.
28. What else differentiates New Jersey’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?
Exceptions to adoption assistance policies may be made when CP&P determines that strict compliance would result in undue hardship or jeopardize the child’s or adoptive parent’s health or safety.