Updated September 2015
Below you will find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in West 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.
Adoption Assistance Program Specialist
Bureau for Children and Families
350 Capitol Street, Room 691
Charleston, WV 25301
Fax: (304) 558-4563
Children’s Home Society of West Virginia
Charleston, WV 25311
304-345-3894 or 800-854-1544
Martinsburg, WV 25404
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:
West Virginia’s state-specific medical assistance:
Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?
- How does West Virginia define special needs to determine eligibility?
A child with special needs is defined as a child that has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to placement or adoption without financial assistance:
- Is eight years of age and older and under the age of eighteen
- Is a member of minority group/heritage and three years of age and older
- Is a member of a sibling group of two or more children to be adopted together
- Has an emotional, physical, mental, or medical disability
Children who have established emotional ties with their prospective adoptive parents while in their care are also eligible for adoption assistance even if they don’t meet one of the four criteria above.
Children must be legally free for adoption and a dependent of the Department of Health and Human Resources in the custody of the state of West Virginia or a child welfare agency licensed to place children for adoption in West Virginia to be eligible for Title IV-E and state-funded adoption assistance.
- Does the state-only funded adoption assistance program differ in any way from the Title IV-E program?
- Are children adopted from private agencies in West Virginia eligible for adoption assistance?
Yes, if the agency is licensed for adoptive placements in West Virginia. The agency must document “reasonable but unsuccessful efforts” to place the child without assistance. At a minimum, reasonable efforts mean registering a child on the state and/or national adoption exchange without finding an approved adoptive home. Applications for adoption assistance with documentation of the child’s special needs must be made and approved before finalization. The child-placing agency must follow DHHR Adoption Assistance Policy and requirements for IV-E eligibility.
What Supports and Services Are Available?
- What is the maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in West Virginia?
The maximum allowable adoption assistance payment is currently $600 per month for children adopted after July 1, 2003 (which is the same rate as the DHHR family foster care maintenance rate).
- Does West Virginia provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?
For children residing in specialized therapeutic foster care homes, the maximum allowable adoption assistance payment is comparable to the foster care maintenance payment provided by the specialized child-placing agency.
Children currently eligible for the Specialized Family Care Program (formally known as the Medley-at-Risk Program) may receive the Exceptional rate of $764 per month.
Determinations for specialized rates are made on a case-by-case basis, based on documentation of the child’s special needs and maintenance payment.
- When do adoption assistance payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in West Virginia after adoption finalization. The adoption assistance agreement is entered into shortly after adoption placement and establishes the payment level of assistance. During this period from placement to finalization, the payment rate is the same but the funds come from foster care.
- When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?
Adoption assistance is automatically terminated on the first day of the month following the child’s 18th birthday. The adoptive parent may request an addendum to the initial agreement to continue the adoption assistance until the child’s 21st birthday if the child is in high school or a post-secondary school. If the child has a documented physical or mental disability and continues to need assistance, the agreement may be renewed each year until the child reaches age 21. Under no circumstances shall an agreement extend beyond the child’s 21st birthday.
- Does West Virginia offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
Yes. The child must be in the custody of DHHR or a licensed West Virginia child-placing agency and at risk of developing a special need in the future. At risk is defined as having a significant statistical or medical probability of occurrence that is not merely speculative. Several factors may be considered for the determination of potential special needs when the child is healthy, developmentally on track at time of placement, appears emotionally stable, and does not seem to meet the criteria for special needs prior to adoption finalization. Factors for consideration include:
- A child with a birth family history of mental illness, mental retardation, or incest
- A child who is developmentally on track but has a significant risk factor that may present itself at a later date
- A child who is displaying normal behaviors at time of placement but who has a reported history of physical or sexual abuse and neglect or has had multiple failed placements
- The child is a state ward.
- What Medicaid services are available in West Virginia?
A child receiving adoption assistance is eligible for all Medicaid services offered or pre-authorized in West Virginia by the Office of Medical Services. For more information, contact Barbara White, Office of Medical Services, 304-558-1718.
- Children who have federally funded (Title IV-E) subsidy are automatically eligible for Medicaid benefits. However, it is the state’s decision whether state-funded (non-Title IV-E) children are eligible for Medicaid benefits in West Virginia. Below is information on the Medicaid benefits available for state-funded children.
All non-IV-E West Virginia children who receive adoption assistance are eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is also available to non-IV-E children from other states if they receive adoption assistance. Medicaid benefits are the same for all eligible children.
- What mental health services are provided by West Virginia?
Public mental health services for children in West Virginia are administered by the DHHR, Bureau for Bureau for Behavioral Health and Facilities. Services may include crisis services, special outreach to schools, in-patient hospitalization, counseling, prescription medication, and innovative projects that model the best practice for serving children with serious emotional disorders and their families. Families should check with their adoption assistance worker, adoption specialist, local mental health provider, or medical assistance specialist for information about process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.
The Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities may be contacted at 350 Capitol Street, Room 350, Charleston, West Virginia 25301-3702; 304-356-4811; http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/bhhf/resources/Pages/ChildResources.aspx.
For intellectual and developmental disabilities information, visit http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/bhhf/Sections/programs/ProgramsPartnerships/IDD/Pages/default.aspx.
- In West Virginia, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?
Parents may be reimbursed up to a total of $1,000 per child for allowable expenses such as court costs, adoption fees, attorney fees, costs of the adoptive home study (including health and psychological examinations), supervision of placement costs prior to adoption, and transportation, food, and lodging when necessary to complete the adoptive placement or the adoption finalization process.
Parents must apply for the reimbursement before finalization, but any reimbursement will be made after finalization upon receipt of the final decree and invoices for services rendered.
- Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
There is no specific child care program for adopted children.
- Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
West Virginia has a program known as Adoption Assistance Conditional Services. Funding is available for time-specified, short-term assistance to meet medical expenses not covered by Medicaid (other than therapeutic hospitalization). Need for such services must be based on conditions that existed before adoption finalization and should be included in the adoption assistance agreement. Funding can also be used for respite care and special educational services not met by the Department of Education. Assistance is granted on a case-by-case basis and is subject to the availability of funds and approval by the administrative management team. Parents should contact the adoption assistance program specialist for program for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.
- Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?
The West Virginia Adoption Assistance Program does not pay nor contribute to the payment for residential treatment. Families may receive pre-authorized services for the child through the Medicaid program if the facility is, or is willing to become, a West Virginia Medicaid provider or a Medicaid provider in their own state. The adopted child is eligible for Medicaid from West Viriginia or from the state in which the facility resides (through the ICAMA program).
The family’s medical practitioner is responsible for making an application through WVMI for pre-authorization for placement in an out-of-state or a psychiatric treatment facility. The child must have an IEP that includes the diagnosis for the Department of Education to cover any out-of-state education cost. The family’s state of residence must provide payment for educational services when determined necessary by the West Virginia Board of Education.
If the facility is non-Medicaid, the child must come back into temporary WV DHHR custody for the family to receive assistance with the residential cost or education cost.
A family may initiate services by contacting the Office of Medical Services at 304-558-1700. Documentation of need for placement is required from the admitting licensed psychiatrist.
- What other post-adoption services are available in West Virginia and how do families find out more about them?
Post-adoption services in West Virginia (known as adoption preservation services) are administered by the DHHR Bureau for Children and Families
In addition, families should read question 20, Are there supports for adoptive parents?) at http://www.wvdhhr.org/oss/adoption/adoption_faq.asp
and view the Adoption Calendar at http://www.wvdhhr.org/oss/adoption/adoption_calendar/diary.asp.
Socially Necessary Services are interventions necessary to improve relationships and social functioning with the goal of preserving the individual’s tenure in the community or the integrity of the family or social system. Services include case management and crisis intervention. (To learn more, visit http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/Providers/Pages/Social-Services.aspx but note that adoption preservation services are not listed here.)
- 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?
Yes, in the initial agreement. Later requests will be considered if funding is available and if the case record documents that the child’s current needs are a result of pre-existing conditions not previously identified by the department. An addendum to the initial agreement explicitly identifying the service for which the child is eligible will be entered into.
What Should Families Know About Applying for Subsidy?
- Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
Children in need of adoption assistance are identified at the local level by their individual caseworker and they begin the process.
- Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
Currently, decisions to accept, reject, or amend the requested benefits are made at the regional level after input from the worker, family, the family’s attorney, and sometimes the child’s guardian ad litem (attorney).
- How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?
Under most circumstances, post-finalization assistance is unavailable. State law requires approval of the agreement before finalization. However, if the family has adopted a child in the custody of DHHR or a licensed child-placing agency and feels that they were not informed of the child’s potential eligibility for adoption assistance, were refused, or denied an application in error or based on extenuating circumstances, the family can appeal.
The family may start the process for post-finalization adoption assistance by contacting Children and Adult Service Adoption Services (Ashley Fizer, 304-356-4902) or the Adoption Unit in the local DHHR office. The local office will deny the request, and send a letter and fair hearing request form to the family explaining the appeal process. Upon receipt of the hearing form, the family is then contacted by the State Hearing Officer to establish a hearing date.
How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?
- Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?
The adoptive parent may request a change in the adoption assistance agreement any time there is a change in the family’s circumstances or the child’s needs, including changes in family or child resources, the child’s special needs, or the adoption assistance payment rate. Parents must submit a formal written request and provide documentation of the need for modification of the agreement. Parents can request increase in cash assistance up to the current ceiling or a conditional service, such as tutoring, respite, or food supplement when they need it.
All requests for change or services must be in writing and signed by the parent, and be sent to Ashley Fizer (contact information at top of profile). All requests must include necessary documentation. Medical needs require documentation by a medical practitioner. If the need is an item normally covered by another program, the parents must submit proof of denial and appeal of the denial of the requested service before it can be considered. If parents are requesting a change in the cash assistance, then verification of the change in circumstances or needs must be submitted. An administrative committee reviews extraordinary or unique requests to determine eligibility.
West Virginia does not accept requests over the phone, but staff will discuss the need and offer information on how to request the service or change.
If the child is approved for the requested change or service, the eligibility date is determined by the date the written request was submitted. The Adoption Assistance Program Specialist will negotiate specifics with parents by phone and will prepare an addendum to the initial adoption assistance agreement, which is signed by all parties. If the request is denied, a letter is sent notifying the adoptive parent. Denial letters inform parents they may request a fair hearing if they do not agree with the decision. See question 22 for more information on appeals.
- What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in West Virginia?
Adoptive parents can request a fair hearing whenever there is disagreement with a DHHR decision that affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits. Parents are advised of their right to a fair hearing with every adoption assistance decision. The adoption assistance/DHHR worker will provide a hearing request form that the parent must complete and return to the worker within 90 days of the notification.
Parents are initially offered a pre-hearing conference with the supervisor and the worker. If the issue is not resolved at the conference, the completed fair hearing form is forwarded to the Board of Review for assignment to a hearing officer. Hearings—either in person where the family lives or by phone—are usually scheduled within 30 days of the request. Parents will receive at least 10 days’ notice.
The notice will explain to parents what to do if they cannot come to the hearing as scheduled. Parents may bring witnesses, friends, relatives, or a lawyer to assist in their case. Everyone presenting testimony will be sworn in. The hearing officer will issues a written decision and transcript in the mail, 15 days of the hearing. If a parent disagrees with the hearing decision, the written decision will explain how to appeal the decision.
For more information, visit http://www.wvdhhr.org/oig/bor.html.
What Else do Families Need to Know?
- How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in West Virginia?
The program is state supervised/state administered. Specific responsibility is as follows:
- County—Determines child’s eligibility, recommends amount of financial and medical assistance, reviews initial agreement with family, and provides some post-legal services.
- Region—Reviews all applications for approval; prepares the adoption assistance agreement and consent.
- State—Obtains authorization for payment, generates monthly assistance and medical cards, approves applications for and payment of nonrecurring expenses, conducts yearly reviews, provides information and referral, and provides training and technical assistance to local staff
In West Virginia, the federal contribution to Title IV-E-eligible children is 71.09 percent (the Federal Financial Participation or FFP rate). The remaining cost of the program is funded with state funds.
The adoption assistance program for non-IV-E-eligible children is funded entirely by state funds.
- Does West Virginia operate a subsidized guardianship program?
Yes. The Legal Guardianship program is a program to establish permanency for children who are in the custody of the department, who are 11 years old or older, for whom adoption is not the best choice, and who have formed a significant attachment with their caretaker. The basic guidelines are similar to adoption assistance, but the child’s parental rights do not have to be terminated.
The maintenance payment is equivalent to the foster care maintenance payment, and the maximum nonrecurring assistance is $1,000.
- Does West Virginia offer a tuition waiver program?
Since October 2002, children adopted from DHHR foster care during or after the month they turn 16 are eligible to receive the Chafee Education Voucher to assist with post-secondary education costs. For more information, contact Christine Bertelli at 304-558-8838 or Christina.m.Bertelli@wv.gov.
- Does West Virginia offer a state adoption tax credit?
Yes, a one-time credit is allowed against personal Income tax for nonfamily adoptions. “Nonfamily adoptions” means adoptions of a child or children by a taxpayer or taxpayers which child or children are not related to the taxpayer or taxpayers by blood or marriage. The credit is equal to four thousand ($4,000) dollars which may be taken in the year of the adoption of each nonfamily child, whose age at adoption is under eighteen years. This credit may, at the option of the taxpayer, be taken over a period of three years.
To file for this credit you will need to complete Form NFA-1 which can be found here, http://tax.wv.gov/Individuals/Pages/Individuals.aspx.
- Does West Virginia have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?
- What is the payment schedule for adoption assistance? Who do I contact if I haven’t received my payment? Can I receive my adoption assistance through direct deposit?
Adoption assistance payments are made on (or around) the 8th business day of the month and are a payment for the pervious month. The state can pay adoption assistance through direct deposit. To set up direct deposit, or to report late payments, contact Ashley Fizer (contact info).
- What else differentiates West Virginia’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?
West Virginia Legal Resources: