Updated September 2020
Below you will find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Virginia. 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 Subsidy Contact Person
Ms. T.B. Jones, MSW
Adoption Program Manager
Virginia Department of Social Services
Division of Family Services
801 E. Main Street, 11th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219-2901
Kathy B. Sauter
Saluda, Virginia 23230
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adoption resources on the web:
Virginia state-specific medical assistance information:
Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?
1. How does Virginia define special needs to determine eligibility?
A determination of special needs is a three-part requirement established in section 473(c) of the Social Security Act (the Act). The determination of special needs shall be made by the LDSS prior to the finalization of the adoption. Each of the three parts of the special needs provision shall be met in order for a child to be considered a child with special needs. Those three parts are as follows:
a. The child cannot or should not be returned to the home of his or her parents;
This determination shall be based on evidence by an order from a court of competent jurisdiction that terminates parental rights, the existence of a petition to the court for a termination of parental rights (TPR), a voluntary placement agreement or permanent entrustment by the parent(s). In addition, a child can be adopted without the above mentioned, satisfying the requirement of section 473(c)(1) and 473(c)(2) of the Act, if the legal parent(s) is deceased. A copy of the death certificate shall be required and paternity must have been established for the identified father.
b. There exists a specific factor or condition which makes it reasonable to conclude that the child cannot be adopted without providing title IV-E adoption assistance or Medicaid due to one or more of the following factors:
- Physical, mental, or emotional condition existing prior to legal adoption;
- Hereditary congenital problem or birth injury that could lead to substantial risk of future disability;
- Six years old or older and has been in foster care for eighteen (18) months or longer;
- Member of a minority group based on racial, multi-racial, or ethnic heritage ;
- Close relationship with one or more siblings that are in the same placement home; or
- Significant emotional ties with foster parents with whom the child has resided at least 12 months when adoption is in the child’s best interest and when adoption assistance is necessary to complete the adoption with these foster parents (when this criteria is the child’s only eligibility characteristic, the child receives state-funded adoption assistance only).
c. The LDSS shall make a reasonable, but unsuccessful, effort to place the child for adoption with appropriate adoptive parents without providing adoption assistance. The only exception to this requirement is in situations where it would be against the best interests of the child due to such factors as the existence of significant emotional ties with the prospective adoptive parent(s) while in their care as a foster child, or adoption by a relative (in keeping with the statutory emphasis on the placement of children with relatives).
A child who meets all medical or disability requirements for Social Security Income (SSI) qualifies as a child with special needs.
2. Does the state-only funded adoption assistance program differ in any way from the Title IV-E program?
The special needs determination for eligibility requirements are the same as above. The child may not be eligible for Medicaid (See question 10).
3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Virginia eligible for adoption assistance?
Yes, if the child meets the special needs criteria and is found eligible for title IV-E as an applicable or non-applicable child, or found to meet additional eligibility requirements for state assistance.
What Supports and Services Are Available?
4. What is the maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in Virginia?
5. Does Virginia provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?
Virginia policy allows for enhanced maintenance payments when the LDSS determines that the adoptive parent(s) provide(s) additional daily support and supervision that is above age appropriate levels to meet the child’s special needs in an on-going basis. This determination is made at the time the adoption assistance payment is first negotiated and requires the administration of the Virginia Enhanced Maintenance Assessment Tool (VEMAT). The VEMAT determines the maximum amount a family can receive but not the actual adoption assistance payment. The payment cannot be more than the child would have received in foster care.
Additionally, based on the needs of the child, Special Service Payments may be available. This type of payment provides funding of services for a child, consistent with their special needs, that are not covered by insurance or other resources, and the adoptive parents cannot afford to cover them out of pocket. These services include, but not limited to: (a) medical, surgical, and dental care; (b) equipment such as prosthetics, braces, crutches, hearing aids, eyeglasses, etc.; (c) individual tutoring or remedial educational services, books, or equipment; (d) psychological and psychiatric evaluations and treatment; (e) speech, physical, and occupational therapy; (f) supplement the cost of health insurance policy premiums for a child when there is no health insurance coverage available to the parents; (g) residential placement.
Payments for special services are negotiated with the adoptive parents taking into consideration available alternative resources to defray costs involved. Alternative resources must be used when available and services must be documented in the adoption assistance agreements and provided for a specified time frame. Payments may be made either directly to the family or to the vendor specified on the adoption assistance agreement.
6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin when both the adoption placement and adoption assistance agreements are signed by all parties.
7. When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?
Adoption assistance payments typically cease when the child reaches age 18. If it is determined by the funding LDSS, based on documented evidence from a licensed professional that the child has a mental or physical disability (or an educational delay resulting from such disability) warranting the continuation of assistance, adoption assistance payments can be extended up to any date until the child’s twenty-first birthday. If the adoption assistance agreement is continued, a new agreement must be signed and the child remains eligible for all benefits.
8. Does Virginia offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
Yes, Virginia offers zero payment agreements. This type of agreement is issued when either the child is at risk of developing special needs or the child meets Virginia’s definition of special needs, but the adoptive parents have chosen to not receive adoption assistance benefits at that time.
The zero payment agreement allows:
- The family to apply any time In the future, but before the child reaches age 18, for either title IV-E or state-funded adoption assistance payments, consistent with the type of agreement initially signed.
- For the title IV-E agreement–the child to receive Medicaid without a separate medical assistance application.
- For the state agreement that indicates a special medical need–the child to meet the eligibility requirements for the state funded Medicaid Program by completing a subsequent application for medical assistance.
9. What Medicaid services are available in Virginia?
- Inpatient hospital
- Outpatient hospital
- Rural health clinic
- Lab and x-ray
- Nursing facility
- EPSDT—Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services
- Family planning
- Clinic services
- Prescribed drugs
- Prosthetic devices
- Rehabilitative services
- Case management
- Medical Equipment and Supplies
- Home Health Visits
- Extended prenatal services
- Emergency hospital
- Intermediate care facility for the mentally disabled
- Physical therapy and related services (PT, OT, speech, hearing and language)
- Other practitioners (podiatry, optometry, clinical psychology)
- Home health care nurse, aide, supplies and equipment
- PT, OT, speech and audiology
- Community mental health services (case management, day treat/part. hospital, crisis intervention, intensive in-home services to children and adolescents, therapeutic day treatment for children, psychological rehabilitation)
- Community mental retardation services (case management, day health and rehabilitation)
For more information on Medicaid, parents should contact the LDSS adoption worker or unit from which their adoption assistance agreement originated.
Medicaid services are provided through the Department of Medical Assistance Services in Virginia. For more information, visit http://www.dmas.virginia.gov/ or http://www.dss.virginia.gov/benefit/medical_assistance/index.cgi
Medicaid coverage is automatically provided for IV-E children. Medicaid may be provided for children receiving state-funded assistance when, at the time of placement, the child is receiving treatment for certain medical or rehabilitative conditions. These conditions include but are not limited to:
- diagnosed physical, mental, and emotional disabilities;
- diagnosed congenital problems and birth injuries;
- diagnosed medical conditions that do not require immediate treatment, such as sickle-cell anemia;
- medical or emotional conditions requiring regular medication, such as epilepsy, allergies, or attention deficit disorders; and
- severe visual and dental problems requiring non-routine medical treatment.
Medicaid coverage is automatically provided for title IV-E children.
As mentioned in question 9, the LDSS can enter into an adoption assistance agreement to provide a special service payment to supplement the cost of a health insurance premium for a child when there is no health insurance coverage available to the parents.
11. What mental health services are available?
Public mental health services for children in Virginia are administered through the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services through 40 Community Services Board across the state. Services are covered through a family sliding fee, insurance, Medicaid, CSA FAPT Team, or a state-funded special services program. For eligible children, Medicaid provides community mental health services such as case management, day treatment/partial hospital, crisis intervention, intensive in-home services to children and adolescents, therapeutic day treatment for children, and psychological rehabilitation for eligible children.
Virginia also contracts with several agencies to provide adoption-competent mental health assessments and consultations for children who have been adopted. For the name of these providers, parents should contact Alisa Foley at 804-726-7572 or email@example.com.
12. In Virginia, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?
Parents may be reimbursed up to $2,000 per child for nonrecurring expenses such as: (a) reasonable and necessary fees of adoption agencies; (b) transportation and other expenses incurred by adoptive parents related to the placement of the child (expenses may be paid for more than one visit); (c) court costs related to filing an adoption petition; and (d) attorney fees directly related to finalizing the adoption.
Parents must submit a bill or receipt before payment can be made. Bills or receipts must be submitted no later than six months after the end of the month in which the expense was incurred.
Children adopted internationally are not eligible for reimbursement
13. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
There are two child care funded categories, maintenance and special services. The category of child care is determined by the child and family’s circumstances.
Maintenance Funded Child Care
To be eligible for maintenance funded child care all of the following must be met:
- The child is 0-12 years of age.
- Each of the child’s adoptive parents must be working or attending college classes when the adopted child is not in school. Their status must verified and documentation stored in the adoption assistance case record.
- The child care facility and/or family day home must be licensed by the Virginia Department of Social Services Child Care Program.
- The monthly supplemental payment rate cannot exceed $600 for full day child care and cannot exceed $300 for part day child care. Full day is at least 5 hours or more of child care provided per day.
- Child care payments are negotiated and agreed upon on the adoption assistance agreement for a period of up to one year. The child care payments should be negotiated annually to evaluate the need for child care and the child’s continued eligibility.
Only adoption assistance agreements executed after July 1, 2017 will be eligible for maintenance funded child care. Addendums to adoption assistance agreements executed prior to July 1, 2017 cannot be negotiated for maintenance funded child care.
Maintenance funded child care terminates on the child’s 13th birthday, unless the child has a documented special need from a licensed medical professional warranting the continuation of child care, which will result in changing the category to special services funded child care.
Special Service Funded Child Care
Special service child care funding is available to any child who meets the eligibility requirements of special service payments and when the need for child care directly addresses the documented developmental disability, intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, sensory or motor impairment, or significant chronic illness and requires special health surveillance or specialized programs, interventions, technologies, or facilities, identified in the initial adoption assistance agreement. Special Services child care can continue to the child’s 18th birthday.
The child care facility selected by the adoptive parents shall be licensed and specialize in serving children with medical and behavioral needs.
For licensed special needs and therapeutic child day centers the following shall occur:
- The child day program’s director and primary staff responsible for plan implementation shall develop an individual service, education, or treatment plan for each child and the plan shall be implemented within 60 days after the first day of the child’s attendance (22VAC 40-185-120); and
- The child’s individual service, education, or treatment plan shall be developed, reviewed, and revised every three (3) months and rewritten annually by the director and primary staff responsible for plan implementation in partnership with the parent. A copy of the initial plan and subsequent plans is given to the child’s parent (22VAC 40-185-120).
- A copy of the child’s individual service, education, or treatment plan should be maintained in the child’s adoption assistance record.
Terminating special service funded child care
Special service funded child care is renewed annually, as with all special service payments. If the child has a condition warranting continuation, the family shall submit a request for an addendum to continue receiving the service.
14. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
The adoption assistance program may cover some costs related to respite care in limited situations. Respite care is a support service designed to offer short-term relief to adoptive families by providing substitute care for the adoptive special need child. The purpose of respite care for families is to reduce adoptive home disruption and assist in maintaining the permanent placement for the child. The terms of the respite care are specified on the negotiated and signed adoption assistance agreement or addendum prior to the respite care service being utilized. Respite care can be provided for up to 30 days per year, with no more than 15 days in any given 90 day period, and no more than 240 hours of respite per year.
Additionally, many private organizations offer respite options. Parents can search for Virginia programs in the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service at 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 may be covered under Medicaid when the eligible child meets the medical necessity criteria of Medicaid or under the Special Service Payments program (assuming that parents can document that less restrictive alternatives have been assessed and ruled out).
16. What other post-adoption services are available in Virginia and how do families find out more about them?
Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) provides, at no cost to adoptive families, one full year of case management services to assists with adjusting post finalization of the adoption. VDSS also provides adoption search and disclosure services. Each local department of social services (LDSS) agency is able to tailor its post adoption program to meet the needs of the the community in which they service. LDSS post-adoption services may include:
- Information and referral
- Educational training programs
- Support groups
- Respite care
- Search services
- Therapeutic intervention
Parents should contact the LDSS in with their adoption finalized for assistance with accessing these and many other services. Other family and parent organizations also offer post-adoption supports, including the Adoptive/Kinship Parent Group of Southwestern Virginia in Roanoke (http://www.cccofvirginia.org or 540-344-2748) and Fostering Adoptive Families in Charlottesville (http://Bethany.org or 434-979-9631). Adoptive Parents Coffee Support Group – offered by New Found Families of Virginia http://newfoundva.org or 888-2foster; and many others.
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 15 are for specific services, must these services be explicitly identified in the adoption assistance agreement?
Yes. All service request that require financial support from the LDSS/VDSS must be entered into an adoption assistance agreement prior to the start of service.
What Should Families Know About Applying for Subsidy?
18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
The LDSS or LCPA responsible for an adoption placement must provide information to foster parent(s) and prospective adoptive parent(s) about the adoption assistance program; this should include an explanation of the criteria to be used to determine whether a particular child is hard to place or handicapped. Such information must be provided when prospective adoptive parents indicate an interest in adopting a particular child and to foster parents at the time that they are told that a proceeding has been started to free a foster child in their home.
19. Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
The LDSS shall make a reasonable, but unsuccessful, effort to place the child for adoption with appropriate adoptive parents without providing adoption assistance. The only exception to this requirement is in situations where it would be against the best interests of the child due to such factors as the existence of significant emotional ties with the prospective adoptive parent(s) while in their care as a foster child, or adoption by a relative (in keeping with the statutory emphasis on the placement of children with relatives). Qualification for adoption assistance payments shall be determined by the LDSS in accordance with rules and regulations established by VDSS.
20. How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?
The LDSS may approve state funded adoption assistance for a child when the adoptive parents submit an Application for Assistance after the final order of adoption has been issued and there is not an existing agreement. The LDSS shall screen the child for eligibility using the Virginia Adoption Assistance Screening Tool.
An application for adoption assistance must be submitted within 12 months of a diagnosis of a congenital or hereditary defect. The family may apply for state adoption assistance only.
Families should contact their local department of social services. Local offices are listed at http://www.dss.virginia.gov/localagency/index.cgi.
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 whenever there are changes in the child’s condition or the parents’ circumstances that warrant a change in the assistance. To request a change, the family should contact the LDSS that is a party to the agreement and will need to submit the Request for Addendum to Virginia Adoption Assistance Agreement form to request a review of their adoption assistance.
Local offices are listed at http://www.dss.virginia.gov/localagency/.
Each year, within 30 days of the anniversary date of the approved agreement, adoptive parents must submit to the local board an affidavit that certifies that the child’s condition that required adoption assistance continues to exist. The agency is responsible for notifying parents by mail two months before the anniversary date informing them that the affidavit is due. Families are given an opportunity, at the time, to request a review.
22. What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Virginia?
Adoptive parents can request a fair hearing within thirty (30) days after receiving written notice of an LDSS decision. A person acting on the behalf of the adoptive parents may act as their authorized representative and request the hearing.
Request for appeals must be submitted in writing to:
Appeals and Fair Hearings Unit
Virginia Department of Social Services
801 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219-2901
Once the Appeals and Fair Hearings Unit receives the written request, parents are assigned an impartial hearing officer who will review the case, hear their concerns, and make a decision in the matter. Hearing officers are located in the Richmond Central Office, four regional offices (Virginia Beach, Warrenton, Roanoke, Abingdon), and the Lynchburg Child Support Enforcement District Office.
For more information about the appeal of a specific local agency decision, contact the local department of social services office. Local offices are listed in the Government Listings in the phone book under “Social Services” or at http://www.dss.virginia.gov/localagency/
For more information on appeals and fair hearings, visit http://www.dss.virginia.gov/appeals/bp.cgi.
What Else do Families Need to Know?
23. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Virginia?
The program is state supervised/locally administered, which means that staff at the state offices of VDSS make policy decisions about the adoption assistance program and provide guidance to local offices. LDSS make decisions related to children’s eligibility.
The federal contribution to maintenance costs of Title IV-E-eligible children (the Federal Financial Participation or FFP rate) is 50% in Virginia. The remaining cost of the program is funded with state general funds. Special Serivce payments are 100% funded through state and non IV-E federal funds.
24. Does Virginia operate a subsidized guardianship program?
The Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP) is a new program available to youth in foster care beginning July 1, 2018. KinGAP is an additional permanency option for youth after Return Home and Adoption have been ruled out as options for achieving permanency.
The program allows the relative caregivers of youth that are placed in kinship foster homes to continue to receive financial support through maintenance payments after custody of the youth is transferred to the relative and the youth is discharged from foster care. The title IV-E eligible youth will continue to be eligible for title IV-E payments through KinGAP.
In order for the youth and the family to be eligible, the following criteria shall be met:
- The youth shall be under 18 years of age prior to the transfer of custody to the relative.
- The youth shall be in the custody of the LDSS.
- Return Home and Adoption are not appropriate for the youth.
- The youth shall be living in the approved kinship foster home for at least six (6) consecutive months.
- The youth demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative caregiver(s) and the relative caregiver(s) have a strong commitment to permanently caring for the youth.
- The youth has been consulted regarding the transfer of custody to the relative if the youth is age 14 or older.
- The relative caregiver is related to the child through blood, marriage, or adoption.
The Kinship Guardianship Assistance Agreement shall be signed prior to the transfer of custody
25. Does Virginia offer a tuition waiver program?
The adoptive parents may consider the costs of post-secondary education and training when assessing the child’s needs for adoption assistance. The LDSS should inform the adoptive parents about the following resources that can help defray costs.
Tuition Assistance Grant Program assists Virginia residents who attend accredited private, non-profit colleges, and universities in Virginia, for purposes other than religious training or theological education.
In addition, the Virginia Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program may provide up to $5,000 per year (based on available funds) for youth in college or a vocational or technical training program. Youth may qualify if:
ETV Eligibility for Youth 16-21:
- The youth must have completed an ETV application.
- The youth must be eligible for services under Virginia’s Chafee Independent Living Program (ILP).
- The youth must have been in the Virginia foster care system.
- The youth must have been adopted from Virginia’s foster care system after turning 16.
- The youth must have a high school diploma or GED certificate.
- The youth must have a written up-to-date transitional living plan in their case record.
- The youth must receive and maintain a satisfactory grade point average (2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale).
- The youth must have applied for financial aid and provided documentation in their case record.
- The youth must have initiated their post-secondary education or training before reaching 21 years old.
ETV Eligibility for Youth 21 – 23:
- The youth must meet all eligibility requirements listed in “Eligible Population for Youth Ages 16 to 21” with the exception of Bulletin #2 (Eligible for services under Virginia’s Chafee ILP).
- The youth are participating in the voucher program on the date they attain 21.
- Participants must be enrolled full-time or part-time in a post-secondary education or training program and making satisfactory grades.
To find out more about the specific eligibility requirements, parents or youth can contact their caseworker or:
Letha Moore-Jones, MSW
Independent Living Program
Virginia Department of Social Services
801 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
26. Does Virginia offer a state adoption tax credit?
27. Does Virginia 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?
Each LDSS is responsible for creating its own payment schedule; in addition, the availability of direct deposit is dependent upon the LDSS in which the agreement is with. If an adoption assistance payment has not been received, parents should contact the adoption assistance worker/unit managing their adoption assistance case.
29. What else differentiates Virginia’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?
Refer to the most updated Adoption Guidance Manual for additional information concerning Virginia’s Adoption Assistance Program at http://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/ap/index.cgi or contact your LDSS.
Virginia Legal Resources:
Code of Virginia, Title 63.2, Chapter 13 Adoption Assistance for Children with Special Needs, §63.2-1300 through §63.2-1304
Virginia Administrative Code 22VAC40-201-161
Virginia DSS Adoption Assistance Manual