10 Things Every Foster-to-Adopt Parent in Virginia Should Know
- The Home Study
Every family adopting from foster care must be evaluated for fitness in caring for the particular child they wish to adopt. The home study should also be considered your tool for getting answers to many questions about adoption. The home study will include a background and reference check for every adult family member living in the home.
- The Adoption Placement Agreement
When a foster child is placed in your home with the intention of adoption an Adoption Placement Agreement should be considered. Under a normal foster care agreement a child can be removed from a home at any time without reason. The Adoption Placement Agreement states that the child can only be removed for specific reasons. Find a sample agreement at: http://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/dfs/ap/forms/032-02-0023-03-eng.pdf. Please be aware that if you do sign an adoption placement agreement, you can not later decided to petition the court for adoption without the approval of the department of social services.
- The Adoption Assistance Agreement
This document will be negotiated before finalization of the adoption. You may also include services needed such as daycare costs and in-home counseling. Find a sample document at: http://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/dfs/ap/forms/032-02-0062-03-eng.pdf. Items 4, 5, 6, and 7 of this document are standard items for consideration in the Adoption Assistance Agreement.
- Adoption Subsidy
Federal and state resources are available to help support the needs of children you adopt from the foster care system. Every child adopted from foster care is eligible for an adoption subsidy equal to the basic foster care maintenance rate, if they have special needs. In Virginia, special needs are defined as 6-18 years of age with special circumstances or with a significant tie to the foster parents who cannot afford adoption without a subsidy. Learn more at the FACES website: www.facesofvirginia.org and click on adoption. Please be sure to note that local departments do not pay the costs associated with subsidy. The costs are paid by a combination of federal and state dollars, or if the child is not eligible for federal funding, then it is paid entirely by the state.
- Special Payments for Children with Intensive Supervision Needs
As of October 1, 2009, any child adopted with special needs is eligible for an assessment using the Virginia Enhanced Maintenance Assessment Tool (VEMAT). This tool determines additional supervision needed by the child relative to behavior, emotional, or medical needs. To learn more about the VEMAT visit us as: www.facesofvirginia.org and click on adoption. The payments from the VEMAT can range from $1900-$3200 based on the significance of child needs for supervision. This is a combination of federal and/or state funding for the childrenâ€¦no local dollars.
- Adoption Non-recurring Costs Assistance
When a family adopts from foster care certain non-recurring costs up to $2000 can be reimbursed to the family. Non-recurring costs may include attorney fees to finalize the adoption, transportation costs, special examinations, or other related costs. There are no local funds used for this expense.
- Medicaid Coverage
Children adopted from foster care with special needs are eligible for Medicaid coverage. Be sure to ask for this assistance when negotiating the childâ€™s adoption subsidy. In addition, you may request reimbursement for mileage to all Medicaid eligible appointments through Logisticare (http://www.dmas.virginia.gov/downloads/pdfs/tr-UserGuide_MedTransp.pdf).
- Post-Adoption Services
Virginia contracts with UMFS to manage the Adoptive Family Preservation Program. This program provides essential services to families who find they are struggling to preserve the adoption. The program can also provided needed respite for families, as well. There are times when children will become more challenging after the adoption has been finalized, be sure to ask for help when and if this happens to your family. Learn more about Adoptive Family Preservation services in Virginia by visiting us at www.facesofvirginia.org and clicking on the adoption tab.
- Open Communications Contract
Virginia now has an option of Open Adoption. If a birth parent wants to be able to stay in communication with their child, and you are agreeable to this, then the court can approve an Open Communications Contract. Please know that if after the signing of the contract, you no longer believe this contact is beneficial to the child you can stop participating and it will not impact the status of the adoption. The adoption cannot be severed just because you are not abiding by the Open Communications Contract. The option is available in Virginia in order to help birth parents become more comfortable with termination of their parental rights and to help older children, especially, be more comfortable with adoption.
- Legal Custody versus Adoption
There may be a time when your child-placing agency worker asks you about or informs you of the option for taking legal custody of the child in your foster home. This is sometimes done to be sure that you can retain the child in your home, since foster parents have no rights to specific placements. Be informed!
If a child in your foster home is not eligible at the time of adoption for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then they may not be able to receive any adoption assistance payments or services once you take legal custody. While the child may not have any special needs at the time you are considering legal custody, please be aware that many times these special needs may not become evident for years. In addition, for a child to become SSI eligible after adoption is much more difficult for families. We know that adopting a child is NOT about the money, but the child may need some very special assistance that you cannot afford, so please weigh this option very carefully.
Another caution about legal custodyâ€¦if the parental rights have NOT been terminated, then you are the only person who will be working with the courts and the birth family. You wonâ€™t have a local social services staff person able to intervene on your behalf, any more.