Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC
Summary of Pros/Cons for Foster Care Adoptions
· Eligibility to adopt from foster care:
o Children who are placed in the foster care system have been removed from their biological parents or previous adoptive parents due to abandonment, abuse, or neglect. They have experienced trauma and they need stable, loving homes. In some cases, the foster care parents will provide that home while services are provided to return the child to their prior parents. In other cases, the Court determines that the child’s best interests are not served by a return to the biological parents. The local social service agency then looks for suitable relatives to adopt the child. If suitable relatives cannot be found, then the existing foster care parents are eligible to adopt. This provides continuity for the child because they have been living with the foster care home while the parental reunification efforts are undertaken. For these reasons, families who choose to adopt from foster care must first feel called to provide foster care homes for children whether the children become available for adoption or not.
o Some parents choose to hire a private agency to help them through this process, which can increase the cost of adoption. These children are still in the custody of a public child welfare agency but are not placed locally because they are older children or have special needs that cannot be met within that locality. Parental rights are already terminated and these children are free for adoption. The children can be placed with families who are home study approved and have applied to adopt through a private agency (AdoptUSKids). These private agencies typically call their programs “waiting child” adoptions.
· Cost of foster care adoptions:
o Most adoptions from foster care cost little to no money. Parents who adopt foster care children adopt from a public child welfare agency of a county, state, or territory. In most foster care adoption cases, there are few or no fees because adopting a child from foster care is subsidized by the state. This is called adoption assistance and most children who are adopted through the foster care system do qualify for a state subsidy. Further, the cost of the home study is borne by the local public child welfare agency.
o “Families who adopt children from foster care are eligible for a federal tax credit. Tax benefits include a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The tax credit is based on a family’s income and tax situation. While the tax credit is limited to the year in which the adoption is finalized, credit exceeding a family’s tax liability can be carried forward for up to 5 years.” For more information, see Topic No. 607 Adoption Credit and Adoption Assistance Programs | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov) (Children’s Bureau, 2020).
· Adoption assistance:
o Adoption assistance is a program meant to help families financially to make it easier to adopt from foster care, as well as make sure that a child’s special needs are met. Some children in foster care may have conditions such as, physical, or mental health disorders, learning disabilities, or other developmental issues that require ongoing treatment or specialized attention (Children’s Bureau, 2020).
o Depending on the case, adoption assistance could be one-time payment for legal expenses to finalize the adoption, ongoing monthly payments, or both, in addition to Medicaid or other state medical assistance. (AdoptUSKids)
o Adoption assistance may last until the child becomes a legal adult. The age of majority is age 18 in most states, but sometimes varies. However, some states provide Federal adoption assistance up to age 21 (Children’s Bureau, 2020).
o “Each State can determine what factors or conditions a child must have in order to be considered to have special needs for purposes of establishing eligibility for adoption assistance.” (Children’s Bureau, 2020) According to the Children’s Bureau the eligibility criteria include:
§ “The State has determined the child cannot or should not be returned to the parents' home.”
§ “The State has identified a specific factor or condition, or a combination of factors, that make it reasonable to conclude that the child cannot be placed with the adoptive parents without adoption assistance and Medicaid; or the child meets the medical or disability eligibility criteria for Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI).”
§ “The State has made a reasonable but unsuccessful effort to place the child without Federal adoption assistance and Medicaid (unless this is against the child’s best interests). If an adoptive parent informs the State that they are not able to adopt the child without assistance, this prong of the special needs test will be met as to the child's eligibility.”(Children’s Bureau, 2020)
· Benefits to foster care adoption:
o The benefit to the child of leaving a traumatic home life for a stable foster care home is potentially life changing. The family learns to love and embrace a child from a different background and life experience. The cost of foster care adoption is low and allows families to adopt who could not afford to adopt through a private agency. Typically, families do not adopt due to infertility but because they have the resources and emotional capacity to adopt a child who needs a stable home.
About adoption from foster care. AdoptUSKids. Retrieved from https://www.adoptuskids.org/adoption-and-foster-care/overview/adoption-from-foster-care
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2020). Adoption assistance for children adopted from foster care. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau.
Comparing the Costs of Domestic, Intercountry and Foster Care Adoption. American Adoptions. Retrieved from https://www.americanadoptions.com/adopt/the_costs_of_adopting
Prepared by Alyssa Howes, Paralegal, and Karen S. Law, Esquire, of Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC © 2021
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