Adoptive parents, like any parent, may have questions and concerns about the financial supports that will be available to their child if they are no longer able to care for their child.
Below we explore what happens to adoption assistance benefits when an adoption is dissolved or if adoptive parents die.
An adoption assistance agreement is a contract between the state and adoptive parent(s). Since the child is not a legal party to the contract, when an adoption dissolves or the adoptive parent(s) die, the contract ends. The child can often still receive adoption assistance in a subsequent adoption, but this assistance must be negotiated with the new adoptive parent(s) and may provide different benefits and support than in the original adoption.
Continued Eligibility for Adoption Assistance
Title IV-E Adoption Assistance
Since 1997, children who receive Title IV-E adoption assistance remain eligible for adoption assistance in a future adoption if their adoptive parents die or the adoption dissolves, as long as the child meets the following criteria that are part of the federal definition of special needs:
- the child meets the state’s definition of special needs (age, sibling group, minority, or disability);
- there have been reasonable efforts to place the child without assistance except in cases where it is contrary to the child’s best interest (such as placement with relatives).
If a IV-E subsidized adoption dissolves or the adoptive parents die and the child is placed with a state agency that assumes responsibility for placement and care, it is that state’s responsibility to determine whether the child meets the definition of special needs and pay the adoption assistance in a subsequent adoption.
If, however, a public child welfare agency is not involved in the subsequent adoptive placement of a child (such as when a relative or another person adopts a child whose parents died), it is the public child welfare agency in the new adoptive parents’ state of residence that is responsible for determining whether the child meets the definition of special needs, entering into the adoption assistance agreement, and paying the subsidy.
For children who receive state-funded (non-IV-E) adoption assistance, the situation is more complicated. If the child re-enters foster care and then is placed with a new adoptive family, the child is like any other child adopted from foster care and will likely be eligible for adoption assistance. If the child does not re-enter care, however, the state in which the child is later re-adopted will determine whether the child receives assistance.
NACAC’s experience suggests that the child is more likely to receive adoption assistance if the new adoptive parent(s) live in the same state that already provided adoption assistance. If the child is adopted into another state, the state that previously paid the adoption assistance may be willing to continue providing assistance in the new adoption.
The parents of child who was receiving Title IV-E assistance from Alabama die when the child is 10 years old. The child’s grandmother, who lives in Texas, agrees to adopt the child. The child will remain IV-E eligible, and the grandmother will need to enter into a new adoption assistance agreement with Texas. Texas will determine the level of benefits provided in the new adoption.
The single father of a 12-year-old boy who receives IV-E assistance decides that he can no parent longer the youth, but arranges for his brother and sister-in-law in the same town to adopt the child. The father relinquishes his parental rights, and the uncle and aunt must apply for adoption assistance and negotiate an agreement before they finalize the adoption.
A girl who was receiving state-funded adoption assistance returns to foster care after her parents decide they can longer parent her. After some time, she is adopted by her new foster parents. Because the girl re-entered care and meets the state’s eligibility requirements for adoption assistance, she receives state-funded assistance in the new adoptive family.
Death of Adoptive Parents
Like other parents, adoptive parents should make provisions to ensure that their minor children are cared for in case of the parents’ untimely death, including finding a legal guardian who is willing to adopt the children. If their children receive adoption assistance, parents should also:
- Inform the guardian about the details of the child’s adoption assistance agreement and whom to contact about the assistance, making sure the guardian understands continued adoption assistance is contingent on their legally adopting the child
- Include information about adoption assistance in their will so that the executor is aware of the benefit and has necessary contact information at the state agency
- Keep a copy of the adoption assistance agreement and state contact information with the family’s other legal, insurance, and other important documents
A few states have programs that continue the adoption assistance with the children after the adoptive parent(s) die. Usually new caregivers must have a legal guardianship in place for this continued support.
Dissolution of Adoption
When an adoption that has been finalized ends (a dissolution), the child typically returns to foster care. In such cases, the state may require the adoptive family to pay child support, at least until the child leaves care. As mentioned earlier, if the child is adopted again, the child will be treated as any other child adopted from foster care and is likely to receive adoption assistance.
If the state is not involved with the new adoptive placement, then the rules apply as outlined above if the adoptive parent(s) dies.