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Adoption Assistance in Pennsylvania

Some questions you may have:

What is Adoption Assistance? | Who is eligible? | What determines the child's eligibility? | What are the categories of assistance? | When does the subsidy become effective? | Does the adoptive family have the right to appeal an adoption subsidy decision? | If a family files an appeal at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA) and loses, can the appeal continue at another level?What if I need more in depth information on subsidy law, policy and procedures? | Where can I find the regulations affecting subsidy in Pennsylvania? | Where can I get an explanation of the regulations and how they apply to me?

 

What is Adoption Assistance?

Adoption Assistance is a program which provides the financial assistance that enables families to manage the physical, emotional, and/or mental disabilities which these children often have. Without such assistance, the needed medical, psychological or educational services might otherwise rapidly drain a family’s financial resources.

Who is eligible?

In a word, all children 17 years or younger with special needs are potentially eligible for Adoption Assistance.

What determines the child’s eligibility?

In order to qualify for Adoption Assistance, a waiting child must meet one of the following requirements:

  • A physical, mental or emotional condition or disability.
  • A genetic condition which indicates a high risk of developing a disease or disability.
  • Being of a member of a minority group.
  • Being a member of a sibling group which is placed together.
  • Being 5 years of age or older.
  • The child must be legally free for adoption and in the legal custody of a county children and youth social service agency or another agency licensed by the state, in order to be eligible for an adoption subsidy.

What are the categories of Assistance?

Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses are responsible and necessary costs which are directly related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs. Such expenses are limited to home study fees, travel for pre-adoptive visits, court costs and attorney fees needed to complete the adoption process. The limit for all finalization expenses, including legal costs, is $2,000. All expenses must be documented. More info...

Maintenance Payments are monthly cash payments intended to help defer the costs of providing food, shelter, clothing and other incidental expenses associated with child rearing. These payments may not exceed the amount the county would pay if the child would remained in foster care. They are not considered income and are non-taxable.

Medical Assistance cards are issued in the name of the adopted child. The card entitles the child to any benefit that would be available under the Pennsylvania medical assistance program.

Depending on the child’s needs and the adopting family’s circumstances, a child may receive one or more of the above types of assistance.

When does the subsidy become effective?

The subsidy agreement may become effective upon the day on which the child is placed in the home and remains in effect regardless of the state in which the adoptive parents reside at any given time.

Does the adoptive family have the right to appeal an adoption subsidy decision?

Yes, an appeal can be filed after:

  1. A finding of ineligibility after determination of eligibility.
  2. A denial or reduction of service.
  3. The termination or suspension of service.
  4. Failures by agencies to notify or advise adoptive parents of the availability of adoption assistance.
  5. Relevant facts regarding the child, the biological family, or child’s background are known but not presented to the adoptive parents prior to finalization.
  6. Denials of assistance based upon means tests of the adoptive family
  7. Erroneous determination by the agency that a child is ineligible for assistance

The address to file the appeal is:

Department of Public Welfare
Bureau of Hearings and Appeals
2330 Vartan Way, 2nd floor
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Telephone (717) 783-3950

If a family files an appeal at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA) and loses, can the appeal continue at another level?

Yes, the appellant may ask the Secretary of Welfare to reconsider the BHA decision if the request is made within 15 days of the decision of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.

The appellant can also file a petition for review with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court within 30 days. The case will be heard by the higher court and reviewed to determine:

  1. If an error of law was made;
  2. Whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the BHA’s decision; or
  3. Whether constitutional rights were violated.

The time for both options tolls concurrently. Both options may be selected concurrently.

You may also consult the Program Operations Division, U.S. Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children and Families, PO Box 1182 Washington, D.C. 20201 or 202-205-8671 for advice on an appeal for the IV-E program.

What if I need more in depth information on subsidy law, policy and procedures?

NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) has detailed information on subsidy from both a National and a state by state perspective. In November of 2000 they sent a questionnaire to Pennsylvania to establish current procedures in the state.

Where can I find the regulations affecting subsidy in Pennsylvania?

Right here. We have extracted the relevant sections of the Pennsylvania Code.

Where can I get an explanation of the regulations and how they apply to me?

Right here. On March 17th 1999 the office of Children, Youth & Families issued a bulletin to explain how the regulations should be applied.

They are broken down as:

If you would like more information on Adoption Assistance in Pennsylvania, please call Phyllis Stevens at (215) 256-0669 Together as Adoptive Parents, Inc. or Sherry Anderson at Three Rivers Adoption Council (412) 471-8722.

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