“I Didn’t Adopt for the Money”: Foster Care Adoption Subsidies

Dawn Davenport


Negotiating for Subsidy for Foster Care Adoption

Negotiating for a foster care adoption subsidy can make adoptive parents feel uncomfortable. Did you ever wonder why?

Talking about money and adoption makes a lot of people queasy. How much will the adoption cost? Will it be faster or easier if we have more money? How much is too much to pay for an adoption. While these topics are often freely, if squeamishly, talked about, it seems harder for many parents to discuss negotiating for adoption subsidies for children adopted from foster care. As one mom told me, “I don’t want people to think I’m doing it for the money”.

Not In It For the Money

Discussing money, especially when you are on the receiving, rather than paying, end feels unseemly to many people in any circumstance.  My grandmother always said that polite people don’t discuss religion or money outside the family. (She would have added “sex”, except I’m pretty sure she was against talking about that even within the family.)

Negotiating for money is even harder for most folks, whether it’s asking for a raise or asking for payment for services rendered. Case in point: all four of my teens have accepted summer jobs without first asking how much they would be paid. Although on one level I was flabbergasted, I understood their hesitancy. For some reason it is embarrassing.

Negotiating for money is especially uncomfortable when it is in relation to our children. No parent wants anyone to think that they adopted for the money. And while some social service case workers may try to make people feel uncomfortable, I think most people bring it on themselves.

How Much Adoption Subsidy is Fair

Another reason people hate the thought of negotiating an adoption assistance grant from foster care is that they have no way of knowing what is fair, other than the foster care payment. Some states automatically offer the same payment they made for foster care, although most do not. States consider different factors when calculating an amount, but it is supposed to be based on the child’s need. To understand better how subsidies are calculated listen to this one hour Creating a Family show on Adoption Subsidies and Benefits When Adopting from Foster Care. You can also download it to your phone, tablet or iPod.


Other resources to use to determine what is reasonable in your state and how to negotiate include:

The first two resources are from the great folks at North American Council on Adoptable Children. One of the guest on yesterday’s Creating a Family was Josh Kroll, head of NACAC’s Adoption Subsidy Resource Center, and he’s available to answer questions by phone or email at 800-470-6665 or adoption.assistance@nacac.org.

Get Over It

Not to be too blunt, but get over your discomfort. You are not begging for money. You are not even asking for money for yourself. Your mindset needs to be that you are advocating for your child. Your child may need services; services cost money; this money will make it more likely that your child will get whatever support they may need.

Foster care adoptions save the state money since it costs the foster care system more money to raise children in foster care than it costs them in adoption assistance payments to adoptive parents. (To say nothing of the fact that it’s far better for children to be raised in a home with forever parents than in a foster home.) The key is to know what your child is entitled to and to negotiate for a fair adoption subsidy.

Did you negotiate for your adoption subsidy or just accept what was offered? Did you feel a little squeamish?

Image credit:  Glikò

25/07/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 27 Comments

27 Responses to “I Didn’t Adopt for the Money”: Foster Care Adoption Subsidies

  1. Avatar Kita says:

    Hello, I am getting ready to adopt my 2 year son. His mother had given birth to him with drugs in his system. Right now he’s been very hyperactive, sensitive, emotional and fights a lot. The caseworker said once I adopt my son. His funds will be cut. I’m to the point that where I don’t think that I will be able to care for him properly. I didn’t want the state to ship him off to foster homes. Is there any type of help funds that will help get through to rough times till his 18 years old

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Hi Kita. All states provide an adoption subsidy for children with special needs adopted from foster care. You need to negotiate for an amount that will help you provide the services that you and your son will need in order to thrive. Most states have some room for negotiation in the amount of the subsidy, but it may be up to you to make the case for an increased amount of subsidy. I can suggest two resources:
      *Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast on Foster Care Subsidies: What is Reasonable and How to Negotiate
      *The Adoption Subsidy Resource Center at the North American Council on Adoptable Children (you may be able to talk with someone by phone to ask specific questions)

      Good luck! Your son is worth the fight to get him and you the support you need!

  2. Avatar Shelle A Cooper says:

    Can I stop stipend after adoption?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      I don’t actually know the answer, but I’m guessing that you could stop the stipend after adoption, but you may want to think carefully about that before you do. Having a signed “adoption subsidy agreement” allows you the full benefits of the Adoption Tax Credit when adopting a child with “special needs”, which means a child with an adoption subsidy agreement with the state. Also, you don’t know what future needs your child might have where this subsidy could allow you to provide the care that he/she really needs. You might want to consider one of these options. You could accept the subsidy and save it in a special account for your child’s college fund, or private specialized high school fund, or staring a business fund when they are adults. If you really don’t believe you need the money, you could ask for an adoption subsidy agreement to be put in place without a current monetary subsidy but that would allow you to come back and ask for one if your child develops needs in the future that a subsidy would help cover. You might also want to consider whether you want to have access at this time to Medicaid and college tuition if your state provides this for kids adopted from foster care. These might also be included in the subsidy agreement. Hope this helps.

  3. Avatar Ali says:

    Dawn can I write to you privately to ask you for help with a personal matter.

  4. Avatar Indy says:

    When you are adopting from foster care , as a child is placed in your home . Till you ofiically adopt them, do you receive subsidy for them?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      It all depends on what state you live in, but it is my understanding that usually at that point you are considered a foster parent and receive the foster parent subsidy.

  5. Avatar Jan says:

    It is hard to talk about subsidy because of judgement. I found myself in the position to adopt 6 of my young relatives. Ages 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11. My children are all have high needs due to severe neglect and trauma. I requested the max subsidy for them all. I’m still waiting to hear back, it’s been a month. I’ve had my kids now for 2.5 years. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the best!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Jan, you asked for the max because you care about these kids and want to be able to provide what they need. No need to feel any shame or guilt!!

  6. Avatar Angela bumgarner says:

    Does anyone have advice for adopting a sibling group of 2 in nc? I am being told there is no subsidy. They are 2 and 3. I have no idea how I’m going to afford daycare

  7. Avatar Laura says:

    Dealing with a issue of divorce and 2 adopted children. Mother of children is receiving adoption assistance for the children but one of the children has been living with me and her father and the other one is not in the home either for almost 2 years. We have been going back and forth to court to try and get the parenting plan that was put into effect during the divorce modified to show the father as the Primary parent so the mother can’t receive any money for the children ,but she continues to not show up for court and it keeps getting put off and the whole time she is receiving adoption assitance money and child support for children that are not in her home. I calles DCS in our state and they said their is nothing they can do until the parenting plan has been revised. All the while she is getting money for these kids and neither one of them are in her home and we end up footing the bill for everything. Can’t afford a lawyer…don’t know where are who to turn to

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Oh my, this is so wrong! Some Bar Associations have a list of attorneys that will do work pro bono. You might contact your local or state Family Law Bar Association. You might also see if your state child welfare department has an ombudsman who can help.

  8. Avatar Kerry Stanley says:

    I am hoping those experienced with the foster care/adoption system can help. My sister has temporarily taken in an 18 year old boy who was a foster child during his young life along with his sister and both were adopted by the same family around the ages of 5 and 8. The boy belongs to the same youth group as my nephew at church and this is how our family is connected to him. Recently, the parents kicked out the 18 year old high school senior from his home and he is penniless. My sister is offering temporary shelter until he graduates in mid June and can work, however, it is becoming a financial burden for my sister. I am confident the parents receive an adoption subsidy so I’d like to know who I can contact to help this young man collect funds that are rightfully intended for his care. Both children came from an abusive environment living with their biological parents. They were placed in a few foster homes before being fostered by their adoptive parents. And yes, both children have “special needs” due to significant emotional trauma and continue to be professionally treated. I share the latter information because I firmly believe the adoptive parents are receiving a subsidy on behalf of their adoptive son but he is not being supported by them. In advance, thank you for your support.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      This is a great question for our Creating a Family Facebook Support group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/creatingafamily/). I’ll chime in with my thoughts over there. You’ll need to join the group, if you aren’t already a member. It is a closed group, so no one other than group members can see the posts. If you’d rather remain anonymous, let me know and I’ll post it for you.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Kerry, with respect to your question about the adoption subsidy not providing for the child, the Children’s Law Center of New York has done a significant amount of work on this issue including the filing of child support petitions and you may want to take a look at their work.

  9. Kimberly Bock Kimberly Bock says:

    I took it for my kids. A lot has happened to them and I am going to use it for them so that they do not enter the system again and fly well some day. If it was my pay… it is like $1.00 per hour per child… and I am sorry… I do not come that cheep. When you see the out of pocket cost for therapy and assessments… you get over a subsidy check quick, one of our son’s bills was $1500+ for a mandatory assessment.

  10. Avatar linda j klein says:

    I adopted two boys that are now 11 and 13. when I received them they were 6.3 months and 9.2 months old. they have been with me everyday since those times. I have been unable to get ant kind of assistance for them at all. my 13 yr old is odd, adhd, asthmatic, developmentaly delayed, physically impaired, aspergers, and mild tourettes. we have applied to ssi on four occasions and been denied each time, even with attorney. reason for denials I did not adopt from foster, the boys were left behind by the parents and I was given custody of them. they were never fostered. how can this be different in such a way as to not be able to get assistance for them??? I cover everythiong for thewm they do have Medicaid and food stamps but nothing else. would you be able to explain to me why this does not fall under some kind od assistance for them???

  11. Avatar Mary says:

    Great article. I am advocating aggressively for my two nephews to get a subsidy. My sense is that there is even more “eye rolling” by social services when the person advocating is family. I had never planned on having children and I find myself now adopting my 7 and 8 year old nephews. When I explained I would be leaving them on the state medical plan I was given an “eye-roll”, right at my own kitchen table. Every penny that I can save will allow me to give them more. I haven’t had time to plan and save for their future (college for example). I also enrolled them in a private school that focuses on the whole child, it is a very nurturing environment and is helping them enormously after they have suffered significant trauma. It’s a long story but I am not embarrassed to be fighting for them. In fact, I want to bring to light the fact that the system acts as though they are doing us a favor. Foster care is underfunded (there was a recent case in Massachusetts where a young boy disappeared, the case worker had lied and said she had visited the home monthly when in fact she hadn’t and it turned out the boy had been missing since Sept). The foster system does not advocate for proper funding (shame on them for not being stronger and demanding more). When I look at real government spending waste I get inspired to push them. When there is so much waste on frivolous government spending and then foster parents have to beg to get financial assistance something is really wrong. the next time you hear any politician (Left or Right) brush off wasteful spending with some comment like “it’s under 1% of the overall budget” keep in mind whatever wasteful spending they are talking about may seem “minor” but it’s money that should be spent elsewhere, in the foster care system for example.

  12. Avatar Eliz Frank says:

    I’m glad you touched on the subject of financial subsidies, and how important it is for adoptive parents to be proactive in asking for what their kids need. It is a demanding responsibility and shying away is not the best approach. I’m always baffled when I hear people claim that folk do it just for the money. I believe the majority foster kids because they care.
    Elizabeth via ICLW

  13. Kimberly, you are so right!!!!

  14. Subsidies vary widely from state to state. NACAC has great resources on the subject.

  15. Can anyone share their stories of negotiating for an adoption subsidy when adopting from foster care?

  16. Michelle, you are right, NACAC is a great resources. Josh Kroll, from NACAC, was on the panel of this week’s Creating a Family show on Adoption Subsidies for Foster Care Adoption. I also included links to specific resources in my blog.

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