Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Summary Report. 2.1.2 Use of Adoption Subsidies for Services and Supports


Subsidy policies vary widely, and their relation to PAS is not well understood.

Our understanding of the relationship between adoption subsidies and other post-adoption services is limited. Several earlier studies and reviews have concluded that adoption subsidies are associated with adoption stability (Barth, 1993; Sedlak, 1991). Other assessments have indicated that the subsidies are set at least as much on the basis of geopolitical boundaries as on the familys ability to meet a childs needs (Avery and Mont, 1992). According to Bower (1995), the majority of adoption assistance administrators and adoption workers concluded that services provided through adoption assistance programs were insufficient to meet the needs of special needs children and families who adopt them (p. 25).

Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data indicate that 88 percent of children adopted in 2000 received some form of adoption subsidy (DHHS, 2001c). Some of these children are not getting cash benefits and are receiving only deferred subsidy agreements that will allow families to obtain a cash benefit should they be able to document such a need at a later time. To our knowledge, there is no research on when and why deferred agreements are activated by families requesting a cash assistance payment.

States and localities are likely to vary in the assumptions that underlie design of their subsidy programs. Some will consider that subsidies should be set at a rate sufficient to provide general support for needed services. Others will set subsidy amounts at a level that can support only the basic care for a child, unless there are specific time-limited requests for subsidy funds to address specific problems. The range of state policies can be seen in the examples of Ohio, where the Post-Adoption Special Services Subsidy (PASSS) provides payments of up to $20,000 annually to adoptive families when there is a risk to the adoption; and Illinois, which limits its provision of cash assistance to meet exceptional needs, but offers a network of adoption preservation services.

There have been a few systematic efforts to keep track of the ways that subsidies support families. National Adoption Assistance Training, Resource and Information Network (1999/2000) survey data and a policy analysis by the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) show that states vary widely on key areas, including how special needs are defined and the provision of benefits including respite care, residential treatment, and nonrecurring adoption expenses (Bower and Laws, 2002).

More than half of the states indicate that they provide residential treatment as a post-adoptive service, according to the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA)/Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA) survey (Oppenheim, Gruber, and Evans, 2000). Current IV-E regulations prohibit the use of funds for residential treatment for children receiving adoption subsidies. Although it might be possible for states to seek a waiver of this restriction, no state has yet done so. There appears to be substantial demand for this resource, yet there is no information available on its use, how it is funded in different states, and whether placements contribute to reunification.

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