According to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Many of these children have special needs and therefore may have a more difficult time getting adopted. To aid in the adoption of these children, federal and state adoption assistance programs are available which provide adoptive parents with various forms of support for children with special needs.
In North Dakota, adoption assistance, or adoption subsidy, is available for eligible special needs children. A special needs child is defined as a child who is between the ages of seven and seventeen, a minority, one who has a physical, mental or emotional disability, one who is at high risk of a physical, mental or emotional disability or one who must be placed for adoption with a sibling. The child must also be legally available for adoption and in the custody of a public, private or tribal agency before adoption.
The North Dakota state-funded adoption assistance program is available to children who are adopted from the North Dakota foster program. Basic monthly payments are negotiated based on children's ages and individual needs. For example, the subsidy for children up to age four is $752.74 whereas the subsidy for children thirteen years and older is $946.66. Increases to these basic rates are determined on a case-by-case basis. Any child who qualifies for adoption assistance is eligible for Medicaid in North Dakota as well.
If a child is adopted from a private agency in North Dakota, they may also be eligible for adoption assistance under the federal adoption assistance program (Title IV-E). In order to be eligible for Title IV-E assistance, the child must qualify as a special needs child and meet three criteria as determined by the state: the child cannot or should not return to their birth parents, factors or conditions make the child more difficult to place for adoption and the state made a reasonable effort to place the child without adoption assistance to no avail. Monthly payments under this program can be up to the state-mandated amounts. A future post will discuss the medical and other adoption support available for adoptive parents of special needs children.