Updated March 2021
Below you will find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Vermont. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.
Permanency Planning Manager
Department for Children and Families
Family Services Division
Building HC1 North
Waterbury, VT 05671
Currently, there is no Vermont representative. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer to help families learn more about adoption assistance, please call Josh Kroll at NACAC, 651-644-3036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Is Adoption Assistance?
Parents who are thinking about or are in the process of adopting a child from foster care should know about adoption assistance (also known as adoption subsidy). Adoption assistance programs are designed to help parents meet the needs of children they adopt from foster care. Children can qualify for federal adoption assistance or state assistance, depending on the child’s history. (For more information on federal adoption assistance (Title IV-E) eligibility, view our fact sheet Eligibility and Benefits for Federal Adoption Assistance.)
Answers to select questions were made available by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance through the Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov).
If you have state-specific questions, call your State Agency Adoption Assistance Contact or the NACAC Volunteer (listed above). If you have questions about a specific adoption assistance payment (such as the payment being late or you are changing addresses or bank account), call your State Agency Adoption Assistance contact or the general number for that agency.
For other questions, contact NACAC at 651-644-3036, 800-470-6665, or email@example.com.
Adoption resources on the web:
Vermont’s state-specific medical assistance information:
Vermont’s adoption assistance information:
Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?
- How does Vermont define special needs to determine eligibility?
A child with special needs is defined as a child who has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to placement or adoption without financial assistance:
- Is four years of age or older
- Is of a racial or ethnic minority and is three years of age or older
- Is a member of a sibling group of two or more children being adopted by the same family
- Has a medical condition/disability
- Has a physical, mental, emotional, or psychological disability
- 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 the special needs definition above and be in the care and custody of the state of Vermont.
- Are children adopted from private agencies in Vermont eligible for adoption assistance?
Only if they are SSI eligible or the child of a child in foster care.
What Supports and Services Are Available?
- What is the maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in Vermont?
- Does Vermont provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?
See question 4 for the different rates based on the skill, training, and experience of the parent needed when the child was in foster care, with Level I as least skilled and Level III most skilled.
For a small number of children with intensive medical, emotional, or behavioral needs, Vermont offers Individual Service Budgets when no other source of payment is available. The state also has a specialized rate for children where the foster parent is providing a high level of service, transportation, visitations, and supervison called a Caretakers Agreement.
If a child has been on one of these two types of rates while in foster care, the state will consider this in negotiating an adoption assistance rate.
- When do adoption assistance payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits sometimes begin at the time of placement if the child is free for adoption. Typically, though, benefits begin when the adoption is finalized.
- When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?
Assistance typically stops when a child reaches 18, but there are two exceptions. The state may offer families a new adoption assistance agreement for youth older than 18 who are still in high school. The assistance can continue until the youth graduates from high school. The state may also offer families a new adoption assistance agreement for youth older than 18 who have a lifelong mental or physical disability. This agreement can continue until the youth turns 21. In both cases Medicaid can be included, however whether or not to provide Medicaid for the youth is determined by the State in which the youth and family live. For youth older than 18, the monthly adoption assistance payment will either change to the Level III foster care rates for a youth age 13 or older or stay at the youth’s current rate, whichever is lower.
- Does Vermont offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
Yes, the state will sign an adoption assistance agreement at zero dollars for children at high risk of developing a special need who meet all of the other eligibility requirements. Children at high risk include infants born addicted to drugs and children under age 4 who have witnessed domestic violence, who have had multiple caretakers, or who have at least one biological parent with mental illness.
- What Medicaid services are available in Vermont?
- Inpatient hospital
- Nursing home
- Outpatient services
- Emergency care
- Family planning
- Doctor—5 visits per month for routine check-ups, diagnostic tests, treatment, immunizations, and drugs that cannot be self-administered
- Mental hospital care—Medicaid covers medically necessary care in a mental hospital for persons under age 21. However, Vermont serves children under the age of 18 in mental hospitals only when no appropriate alternative can be found.
- Service for persons with serious developmental disabilities (including care in intermediate care facilities)
- Home health care—skilled nursing visits, aide visits, therapy visits, hospice care, other necessary supplies and appliances
- Vision—eye examinations by optometrists or ophthalmologists every two years.
- Dental—Most preventive and restorative care is covered including examinations, x-rays, cleaning, fillings, and sealants. Orthodontic care may be provided for children in certain situations.
- Mental health—psychotherapy, group therapy, day treatment, day hospital, chemotherapy, emergency care, evaluation, diagnosis, case management, and transportation
- Psychological and psychiatric services—psychotherapy by a private practicing psychologist or psychiatrist up to $500 per calendar year
- Chiropractic—only the treatment known as manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation, up to 10 treatments/year.
- Cosmetic surgery—only if necessary for prompt repair of accidental injury or to improve the function of a malformed body part
- Other covered services—lab tests ordered by a doctor; limited foot care from a podiatrist; medically necessary wheelchairs, braces, artificial limbs, and diabetic supplies; and professional (non-residential) services in approved alcohol and drug treatment centers
For persons under age 21 only:
- Hearing aids and exams
- Hearing aid repairs
- Children’s health check-up services under the EPSDT program
- Smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches and nicorette gum
For more information, parents can call 802-241-3978.
- 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.)
State-funded children living in Vermont receive the same services as Title-IV-E-funded children receive.
- What mental health services are available?
Public mental health services for children in Vermont are administered by the Agency of Human Services, Department of Developmental and Mental Health Services (DDMHS) and may include:
Core Capacity Services—immediate crisis response; clinic-based treatment; outreach treatment; family support; prevention, screening, referral, and community consultation.
Statewide Capacity Services—emergency or hospital diversion beds; intensive residential service, hospital inpatient services.
Children’s Mental Health Services works with agencies in each region to assure delivery of effective behavioral health treatment and supports as well as prevention and early intervention services through a family-centered system of care for all children and families in the state. Services are available separately or in combination for a youth and the family, depending on their desires and needs.
For more information, parents can visit:
Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Services: https://mentalhealth.vermont.gov/services/children-youth-and-family
Crisis Contact numbers: https://mentalhealth.vermont.gov/services/emergency-services/how-get-help
- In Vermont, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?
Parents may be reimbursed for up to $2,000 per child for expenses directly related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs that have not been reimbursed from other sources. Expenses include reasonable and necessary adoption fees; court fees; attorney fees; and costs for adoption homestudy, health and psychological examinations, and supervision of a placement before adoption; and reasonable lodging and food costs for the child or parents when necessary to complete the placement process.
Families must apply and be found eligible before finalization. Internationally adopted children are eligible if they meet all other program criteria.
- Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
Vermont families can receive help with childcare costs provided they have a service need which means they are employed out of the home The only exception to the service need is for registered farm families. If the provider the family uses charges more than what childcare services pays, the family is responsible for the difference.
At the time of the adoption, the family must complete an application for family support childcare. Income guidelines will be used to assess the number of childcare hours needed. Families must apply annually for childcare.
- Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
There is limited respite care available through the Department of Mental Health. The family must fill out a request for services with their local county mental health clinic. In some situations, the state includes respite in the adoption assistance agreement for a time-limited basis (such as 6 to 12 months).
Families can request to have their adoption assistance agreement amended to include funding for respite services by writing a letter to the Adoption Unit.
Many private organizations offer respite options. Parents can search for Vermont options at the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service (http://archrespite.org/respitelocator).
- Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?
To access residential care, a family must work with community mental health (CMH). Through CMH, a Local Interagency Team (LIT)—including the family; case managers; staff from Education, Social Services, Developmental Services; and a representative from the Vermont Adoption Consortium—will review or obtain evaluations or assessments needed to understand the child and family’s need and develop a plan of care for the child and family. If residential treatment is part of that plan, the lead agency sends a written request to the case review committee (CRC) at the state level. The CRC reviews the plan, the facility’s capacity to provide needed treatment, and how the cost will be shared, and then decides whether to approve or amend the plan.
The state will ask families to use some or all of their monthly adoption assistance to offset some costs of residential placement. Staff at the state level decide how the total cost will be covered. Families must contact the adoption unit before the child is placed out of their home to discuss what portion of the adoption assistance will be used to help with residential costs.
If a family makes a unilateral placement, they are responsible for the total cost.
- What other post-adoption services are available in Vermont and how do families find out more about them?
Vermont offers Payments for Special Services. Funding is available to provide support for specific special services, such as psychological care, psychiatric care, and dental and medical services. Funding is only available after adoptive parents have exhausted all public and private resources, including the family’s private health insurance. To access Payments for Special Services, parents should make a request in writing to the adoption unit. The request should include the costs, what portion the family can pay, efforts made to find another source of payment, and any written medical or psychological evaluations recommending the service.
Post-adoption services in Vermont are administered by the Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division. The state contracts with a number of private agencies and independent and parent organizations. Post-adoption services may include:
- Information and referral
- Educational programs
- Educational materials
- In home parental service and support
- Support groups
- Respite Care
- Residential treatment
- Therapeutic intervention
- State Registry (mediation/search services)
Contracted providers include:
Northeastern Family Institute (NIF)
Williston — 802-658-0040
Easter Seals Vermont
Berlin — 802-223-4744
Shelburne — 802-985-0158
Lund Family Center
Burlington — 802-864-7467
Northeast Kingdom Human Svcs.
St. Johnsbury — 800-649-0118
Newport — 802-334-6744
The Parent to Parent Program connects families to services and other families for support. The Vermont Adoption Consortium connects families to agencies that provide post-adoption support services.
To find Family Service Offices, visit http://dcf.vermont.gov/fsd/contact-us/districts.
To contact the Vermont Adoption Registry, parents or youth should visit http://dcf.vermont.gov/vt-adoption-registry
- 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 Subsidy?
- Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
The agency finalizing the adoption is authorized by the state to provide families with information, help families complete the paperwork, and advocate for families applying for adoption assistance.
- Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
The adoption chief makes the final eligibility determination. The Deputy Commissioner makes the final decision on the content of the contract.
- How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?
Once an adoption is finalized, a child will no longer meet the eligibility requiremnent for adoption assistance. If a child meets all eligibility requiements but this one and the family can prove they were not told about adoption assistance and therefore could not apply before finalization, the family should contact the adoption unit.
How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?
- Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?
Adoptive parents can request a change in the adoption assistance agreement at any time there is a change in the family’s circumstances or child’s needs (as they relate to the need for which adoption assistance was granted).
Requests for changes in the adoption assistance agreement must be in writing to the adoption chief (the State Adoption Assistance Contact on page 1) and be signed by the adoptive parent(s). To request an increase in adoption assistance, the adoptive family must first make use of any and all available community supports and substantiate the need for the increase. Parents must include information detailing the community supports and agencies the family has already contacted for assistance, the results of those contacts, any school or psychological evaluations, and information from therapists, doctors, or social workers working with the child and family. The written request for change must outline what is needed, an estimate of cost, what portion (if any) of the cost will be funded by community supports, what portion (if any) will be funded by the family, and what portion parents are seeking from the state. The request must also detail the estimated duration of services and costs. If the family has had to cut back on work and suffers a loss of income or has to hire additional help, they can also request changes related to this.
- What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Vermont?
Adoptive parents can request a fair hearing any time an Agency of Human Services decision affects their child’s adoption assistance. The agency will send parents a letter informing them of intended agency action that will affect their child’s subisdy; the letter provides information and contacts to appeal the decision through fair hearing heard by the Human Services Board.
What Else do Families Need to Know?
- How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Vermont?
The program is state supervised/state administered, which means that both policy and eligibility decisions are made by personnel at the state office.
The federal contribution to Title IV-E-eligible children— known as the Federal Financial Participation or FFP rate—is 55.11% in Vermont. The remaining cost of the program is funded entirely with state funds.
- Does Vermont operate a subsidized guardianship program?
Since July 1, 2010 Vermont has had a sudsidized guardianship program for youth in state custody who are living with a relative licensed to provide foster care.
- Does Vermont offer a tuition waiver program?
No, but youth may be eligible for funding of up to $5,000 per year while they are in college or a vocational or technical training program if:
- They are 18, 19 or 20 years old.
- They are in foster care or were in foster care as a teenager and are a U.S. citizen or qualified non-citizen.
- They aged out of the foster care system at age 18 or were adopted from foster care after their 16th birthday.
- They have been accepted into or are enrolled in a degree, certificate, or other program at a college, university, technical, or vocational school and show progress toward that degree or certificate.
To learn more, parents or youth can contact:
Mr. Dana Lawrence
Practice and Policy Specialist
Vermont Department of Social Services
103 South Main Osgood Building
Waterbury, VT 05676
- Does Vermont offer a state adoption tax credit?
- Does Vermont have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?
If the child is living in the home of a pre-adoptive family, the state can open a new adoption assistance agreement before adoption finalization.
- What else differentiates Vermont’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?
Vermont Legal Resources:
https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/title/15A (click on link Vermont Statutes Annotated; then on Title Fifteen A. Adoption Act)
Family Service Policy Manual 193, Adoption Subsidy: