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What should I know about adoption assistance for children with special needs?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
Read this in: Spanish / Español

Adoption assistance for children with special needs in Georgia

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What is adoption assistance?

Adoption assistance is monetary help for people who wish to adopt a child with special needs. 

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What rights do I have to adoption assistance for a child with special needs?

Adoption assistance may be available for "special needs children" in limited circumstances. This assistance is provided through your local Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS).

 

There are four types of assistance:

1. Monthly Maintenance Assistance. This monthly benefit, often called an "adoption subsidy," is designed to help you with meeting the child's special needs. The money is intended to cover expenses such as: 

  • clothing, 

  • special dietary needs, 

  • ordinary medical and dental care, 

  • special education needs, and 

  • preschool daycare. 

 

Also, remember that although benefits begin the day that the adoption is finalized, it may take a few months to receive the assistance check.  See below for information on qualifying for this benefit.

The current basic monthly amounts are:

  • $441.04 for a child 5 years old or younger,
  • $463.85 for a child6 to 12 years old , and
  • $486.67 for a child 13 to 18 years old.

 

The child may qualify for a higher amount if the child has severe needs. If you think your child has serious needs, ask your caseworker about a "level of care determination."

 

In order to qualify for a monthly subsidy, the child must be special needs (see definition below).

 

The child must also meet one of the following requirements:

  • The child is getting SSI (Supplemental Security Income from Social Security). 
  • The child was in foster care (however, not all children that have been in foster care will qualify). If the child turned 6 before October 1, 2014, the child must be adopted directly out of foster care or be receiving SSI 
  • The child was adopted before and qualified for the monthly subsidy after the previous adoption.

 

2. Medicaid/Amerigroup. You can get this important health insurance coverage if your child qualifies for the monthly subsidy. This coverage continues even if the child is placed in another state or moves to another state with his or her adoptive family.

 

3. Nonrecurring Adoption Assistance Benefits.  You can get this important benefit to help pay for the adoption. It covers attorney's fees, court costs, and other one-time expenses directly related to the adoption of a child with special needs. The maximum amount you can get is to $1,500 per child. The reimbursement amount cannot include any costs for the termination or surrender of parental rights. You will have to send your caseworker a copy of the bill from your attorney or ask your attorney to send the bill directly to your caseworker.

 

4. Special Services Adoption Assistance. This benefit is a one-time special benefit. It can cover expenses not covered by Medicaid or by the monthly subsidy or through other community resources. Expenses that might qualify include expenses for: 

  • orthodontics, 
  • prosthetics, 
  • psychological counseling, 
  • daycare, and 
  • respite care. 

This benefit is generally only available to children who have been previously in the custody of DFCS. This benefit is not available to every child every year because approval depends on the amount of money available each year. DHR may take the adoptive parents' income and resources into account when determining the amount of the benefit.

 

Can DFCS consider my income in an application for adoption assistance?

In general, no it cannot. Your income does not matter for the monthly subsidy. There are two exceptions:

  • You are asking for more than the basic monthly amount for the monthly subsidy.
  • You are asking for special services adoption assistance.

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What are my responsibilities when requesting adoption assistance?

You are responsible for applying for adoption assistance through the DFCS office before you get an adoption order. You must provide proof that the adoption would not be possible without adoption assistance.

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What rights and responsibilities does DFCS have in providing Adoption Assistance?

The DFCS office in the county where you are adopting must allow you to complete an application for adoption assistance. DFCS has a right to deny these benefits, but must do so in writing. DFCS must also allow you to appeal their decision within 30 days. 

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Contents


How can I apply for adoption assistance?

You should go to the DFCS office in the same county that you are adopting. You will have to complete an Adoption Assistance Agreement. You MUST fill out this form after you have filed the adoption with the court but before you get the adoption order. Ask the caseworker for a copy of all papers you sign. If DFCS will not let you apply, call the State Office of Adoptions at (404) 657-3550. When you apply, you should bring: 

  • a copy of your petition, 

  • proof that the child has been living with you for at least two years (or meets another “special needs” definition) and 

  • the first order removing the child from the home of the parents and placing him or her in foster care.

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What can I do if I am denied benefits?

If you are denied benefits, you have the right to appeal. Once you get a letter or other papers denying your application, you have 30 days from the date on the letter or papers to appeal.

 

If you have questions about asking for an appeal or going to court for your appeal, please contact the Atlanta Legal Aid Society or the Georgia Legal Services Program.

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Terms

Special Needs: In Georgia, a child is considered to be "Special Needs" if he or she is in one of the following categories:

  • a child who has been in the care of a public or private agency or individual other than the legal or biological parent for more than 24 consecutive months;

  • a child who is a member of a sibling group of two or more placed in the same home; or

  • a child with a physical, mental or emotional disability, as validated by a licensed physician or psychologist.

Resources

  • Visit the Department of Child and Family Services office website to find your county DFCS office.
  • For more information please contact the Atlanta Legal Aid Society or Georgia Legal Services Program office nearest you.
  • For Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties, call Atlanta Legal Aid Society: 404-524-5811
  • For all other counties, call Georgia Legal Services Program: 1-800-498-9469 (toll free)
Last Review and Update: Mar 27, 2022
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