Adoption Assistance

Children with special care needs deserve a family too...

Efforts are made to find an adoptive family that best meets the needs of the child when it is not safe for a child to stay with their birth parents. Because of mental or physical handicaps, disruptive behavior, medical problems or other factors, it may take time to find the appropriate family that can provide the extra measure of patience, acceptance, caring and understanding of the child's needs.

The Adoption Assistance Program can help the family meet the costs of extensive and frequently expensive care.

To learn more about adoption assistance, information is provided on the following topics:

What is adoption assistance?

Adoption assistance is determined by the special care needs of the child and may include:

  • medical assistance for some medical costs not covered by the family's health insurance;
  • a monthly amount to the adoptive parent(s) to assist in meeting the financial demands of caring for a child’s special care needs (maximum of $2,000); and
  • reimbursement of reasonable and necessary expenses incurred in order to complete the adoption (e.g., legal fees and/or agency fees) up to $2,000.

What determines eligibility for adoption assistance?

A child must have, or be at risk of developing special needs and otherwise would not be able to be placed for adoption without adoption assistance.

Eligibility criteria for the child, as defined in Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 50, Facilitating the Adoption of Children with Special Needs (DCF 50.03) is:

  • 10 to 18 years of age;
  • exhibiting emotional, behavioral or physical/personal care characteristics to a degree that meets established criteria;
  • member of a sibling group of three or more who must be placed together;
  • member of a minority race who cannot be readily placed due to a lack of appropriate placement resources; or
  • at risk of developing special care needs as defined in DCF 50.01(4)(j).

In what situation is adoption assistance appropriate?

If it is determined at the time of an adoptive placement that a child exhibits special care needs or is at risk of developing special care needs as defined by Wisconsin Administrative Code, DCF 50, Facilitating the Adoption of Children with Special Needs, an application for adoption assistance is submitted. The adoption social worker negotiates the adoption assistance agreement with the adoptive family, completes the necessary forms and submits the adoption assistance application material to the adoption supervisor for review prior to the placement of the child.

If the needs of a child change between the time of adoptive placement and adoption finalization, the adoption assistance agreement can be renegotiated with the adoption worker. Necessary forms will be submitted and processed by the adoption worker.

The adoptive parent(s) can request an Application and Decision form (CFS-72) from the adoption social worker if they believe the child meets the criteria for adoption assistance and the adoption worker has not submitted an Adoption Assistance application to the adoption supervisor for determination. The adoptive parent(s) would complete the CFS-72 and request their adoption worker to submit the form to the adoption supervisor for determination of eligibility.

What determines the amount?

  • The amount of the adoption assistance is based on the current uniform foster care rate which takes into account the child's age and any special care requirements of the child. This amount is set prior to placement of the child and can be renegotiated prior to the finalization.
  • Adoptive parent(s) granted adoption assistance for a child who is at risk of developing special care needs after the adoption finalization, are eligible for a monthly monetary amount if the child is later diagnosed with special care needs.

What about medical care?

Every child who receives adoption assistance is also eligible for Medical Assistance. If a family's health plan fails to provide coverage, the Wisconsin Medicaid Program may cover some necessary medical costs.

Does the monetary amount of adoption assistance change after adoption?

The monthly adoption assistance amount will not be reduced to an amount less than what is specified in the original Adoption Assistance Agreement (CFS-74) unless the adoptive family requests a reduction or termination of the payment. Contrary to a foster care monthly payment, the monthly adoption assistance amount will not increase based on the age of the child. Families are eligible to request an amendment to their original Adoption Assistance Agreement after twelve months have lapsed from the date of adoption.

What is an adoption assistance amendment?

An adoption assistance amendment amends the original adoption assistance agreement. Approval of an amendment can occur if a) twelve months have lapsed since adoption finalization, b) the level of the difficulty of needs has increased in the supplemental care category since adoption, c) limits for adoption assistance increases have not yet been reached, and d) there is no substantiated report of child abuse or neglect by the adoptive parent(s) relating to the child.

The statutes and administrative rule allow for increases in the supplemental amount to the intensive level in each of the three categories (emotional, behavioral and physical/personal care). The law does not allow for an increase in the exceptional payment nor does it allow for establishment of an exceptional payment to an agreement after the adoption of a child. ("Adoption Assistance Amendment Information", PFS-4063.)

What about the costs of incurred during the adoption process?

When a child is adopted and adoption assistance is granted, the reasonable and necessary expenses that were incurred in order to complete the adoption can be reimbursed up to $2,000. Reimbursement requests must be submitted to the Department of Children and Families within 2 years from the date of adoption finalization. Wisconsin public agencies and private licensed agencies in partnership with Wisconsin public agencies do not charge a fee for special needs adoptions. Adoption fees of other private licensed agencies vary. Income tax credits may also offset adoption costs. ("Reimbursable Expenses When Adopting Children With Special Care Needs In Wisconsin", PFS-747.)

How long does adoption assistance continue?

Adoption assistance may continue until the child reaches age 18 or until age 19 if the child is enrolled as a full-time student in high school. In certain circumstances, it may continue to age 21. Payment will stop when the adoptive parent(s) no longer support the child (for example, when the child marries or joins the armed forces). The adoptive family may request that the adoption assistance be reduced or terminated at any time.

Will the adoption agency continue to be in contact with adoptive parents?

Once the adoption is final, adoptive parents have the full rights and responsibilities of birth parents. If a family requests post-adoption services, the agency can provide short-term help or make referrals to another agency or resource.

While receiving adoption assistance, adoptive parents agree to inform the Department of Children and Families of major changes in the child's life as each event occurs.

Major changes are considered to be:

  • date adopted child is no longer in adoptive home;
  • date adoptive parent(s) stopped supporting the adopted child;
  • date adoptive parent(s) are no longer legally responsible to support adopted child;
  • date adopted child ran away from home;
  • date of death of adopted child;
  • high school graduation information for adopted child 18 years and older;
  • date of marriage of adopted child;
  • date adopted child entered military service;
  • change in adopted child’s legal guardian;
  • change in private health insurance coverage;
  • change in family’s address; or
  • date of termination of your parental rights;

Where can more information be obtained about the Adoption Assistance Program?

To learn more about special needs adoptions and the Adoption Assistance Program,

  • Visit the Department's web site.
  • Contact a licensed Wisconsin adoption agency;
  • Contact the Toll Free Number at 866-666-5532 in the Division of Safety and Permanence, Department of Children and Families.