Assessing the Field of Post-Adoption Services: Family Needs, Program Models, and Evaluation Issues. Analysis of Secondary Data. 3.3.3 Amount and Direction of Payment Changes

11/01/2002

Subsidy changes tend to occur in conjunction with required recertifications.

Adoptive families in California are contacted every two years for a required biannual recertification of their subsidy. Payment changes may occur following these recertifications, reflecting routine events, for example, a child gets older and qualifies for a subsidy increase based on age. They may also result from special requests, if a child needs special services that the family cannot afford. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of cases had one or two payment changes to recertify or change AAP amounts during the 11-year period covered by the AAP data for these children adopted in 1988- 1989 (see Exhibit 20).

For 10 children, this first payment change was to end their adoption, due to turning 18. These children had not, then, had any changes in subsidy amounts. This differs from what would have occurred had these children stayed in foster care and received automatic payment increases based on age. (Since January 1, 2000, California has provided automatic increases of AAP payments when foster care payments are increased.) Only 21 children were identified as having their payment started or restored during this time. These numbers are similar to those that we obtained from the CLAS survey, described above. We have limited the majority of our analyses to cases that had recertification changes.

Exhibit 20.
Payment Changes and Case Actions
Case action (submission) Payment change Total
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1 = Payment started/ restored
Row %
Column %
14
(67%)
(2%)
2
(10%)
(<1%)
5
(24%)
(2%)
0
(0%)
(0%)
0
(0%)
(0%)
21

(1%)

2 = Payment recertified/changed
Row %
Column %
618
(41%)
(96%)
454
(30%)
(99%)
239
(16%)
(98%)
120
(8%)
(99%)
65
(4%)
(98%
1496

(98%)

3 = Terminations
Row %
Column %
10
(58%)
(2%)
5
(29%)
(1.08%)
0
(0%)
(0%)
1
(9%)
(0.83%)
1
(5%)
(1.52%)
17

(1.11%)

Total
Row %
Column %
642
(42%)
(100%)
461
(30%)
(100%)
244
(16%)
(100%)
121
(8%)
(100%)
66
(4.30%)
(100%)
1,534

(100%)

Column and row percentages may not total to 100% due to rounding.

These proportions are displayed graphically in Exhibit 21. The graph shows, more clearly, that the vast majority of changes filed were a result of recertifications. Further, the greatest proportion of those who had any changes had only one change during this 10-year period. Clearly, adoption subsidy payments in California are, on the whole, quite stable.

Exhibit 21.
Payment Changes with Each Case Action

Payment Changes with Each Case Action

Additional analyses addressed the direction and size of subsidy changes. We first eliminated change forms that were not related to payment changes. Then we grouped the payment submission changes according to whether they indicated an increase or decrease in payments and the size of those increases or decreases.

We examined how much each payment increased or decreased when payment changes occurred. We excluded payment changes solely due to termination of the case (because the child aged out of the adoption subsidy program at age 18), because these payment changes were, apparently, not related to changes in demand for services. We divided the amounts of payment changes into payment increases and payment decreases, and also looked into the total average amount of each payment change. The average size of the payment changes grew from the first payment change to the fifth payment change. Total average amount of each monthly payment change was just $89, a meaningful change when viewed in comparison with the average initial monthly payment of $404 noted earlier.

Exhibit 22 shows that a sizable proportion of changes are payment decreases. Of all payment changes, 26 percent were reductions in payments. We have no direct way to quantify the reason for these payment decreases, but they appear to have been made to correct payment increases that were too high or meant to be temporary. The increase in the size of the payment decreases and increases is consistent, although the magnitude of the change is far greater for payment decreases. Taken together, then, the average payment change increases in size as the number of payment changes grows.

Exhibit 22.
Monthly Payment Increases and Decreases with Each Payment Change
(excluding all terminations)
  Average payment
increase
Average payment
decrease
Overall average
change
1st payment change $175
(n = 493)
$-131
(n = 139)
$108
(n = 632)
2nd payment change $200
(n = 332)
$-190
(n = 124)
$94
(n = 456)
3rd payment change $280
(n = 184)
$-377
(n = 60)
$118
(n = 244)
4th payment change $345
(n = 76)
$-744
(n = 44)
$-54
(n = 120)
5th payment change $443
(n = 42)
$-762
(n = 23)
$16
(n = 65)
Total $221 $-294 $89

We then examined how the size of the monthly AAP payment changes with each payment change (excluding payment changes identified as terminations). To do this, the amount of AAP payment changes were split into six categories: loss of $501 or more, loss of $101- $500, loss of $1.00-$ 100, gain of $1.00-$ 100, gain of $101- $500, and gain of $501 or more. The typical change in amount was small, although there was a gradual movement toward larger increases with payment changes. So, among all first payment changes, 68 percent were gains or losses of less than 100  this had dropped only slightly (to 64 percent by the third payment change). But by the fifth payment change, only 38 percent of payment changes were of that size. During the first payment change, 22 percent of changes were greater than $100, but by the fifth payment change this had grown to 32 percent. The number of payment changes and the size of those payment changes are clearly associated at the extremes (see Exhibit 23).

Exhibit 23.
Number of Cases by Amount of Payment Change and by Number of Payment Changes
Amount of payment changes (PC)  1st PC   2nd PC   3rd PC   4th PC   5th PC   Total 
Loss of $501 or more 3 12 10 11 8 44
Loss of $101 - $500 61 46 26 15 12 160
Loss of $1 - $100 85 71 24 19 4 203
Gain of $1 - $100 349 234 134 54 21 792
Gain of $101 - $500 124 76 33 14 14 261
Gain of $501 or more 20 22 17 8 7 74
Total 642 461 244 121 66 1,534
Note: Cases may be counted under more than one payment change (PC).

In future analyses we will need to better understand the negative payment changes and when these occur. We have identified those that occur because a child turns 18 or 21 and is coded as a termination. We believe that the other negative payment changes generally follow a high payment for some special, time-limited services. In any event, these negative payment changes are not independent from the positive events. This suggests advantages of omitting the negative events for some analyses, and creating a dependent measure of payment changes that only includes the positive changes. This focus on positive increases is necessary to isolate changes obtained for new post-adoption services. If only the net change in subsidy is used for analysis, then evidence of temporarily increased funding to address service needs is lost.

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