Adoption Assistance

Some children adopted from foster care who meet their state's definition of special needs* are eligible to receive Federal or State adoption assistance to minimize the financial obstacles to adoption. State adoption assistance programs provide financial support and medical services for children determined to have special needs who are not eligible under the Federal title IV-E adoption assistance program. In order to be eligible for State programs, children must fit the definition of special needs in their State.

Child Welfare Information, a service of the Children's Bureau, provides a factsheet explaining the types of adoption assistance and eligibility requirements for both Federal and State programs in Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted From Foster Care: A Factsheet for Families.

Detailed information about State programs is available through the Adoption Assistance by State search available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway's website. On this site, you will find State-by-State information on eligibility for the programs, medical assistance, availability of postadoption services, fair hearings, and links to State websites for related information. The information on this site is updated by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (AAICAMA).

Policies regarding Federal title IV-E adoption assistance are contained in Section 8 of the Children's Bureau Child Welfare Policy Manual. Questions regarding policy regulating Federal Title IV-E should be directed to the appropriate Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Regional Office. A list of Regional Offices is available on the ACF Office of Regional Operations website at

The Child Welfare Policy Manual addresses when assistance payments can be ended. The State Adoption Assistance Specialist for each State can address specific questions about the termination of assistance. State-by-State contact information for the specialists can be found in the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory, available through the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Additional information is provided in Guidelines for Terminating Adoption Assistance Agreements, on the North American Council for Adoptable Children's website.

* For many people, a child determined to have special needs means a child who receives or needs special education or who has a disability of some sort. In adoption, the term is defined differently and may include the factors listed below. There is no Federal definition of special needs, and guidelines for classifying a child as having special needs vary by State. Children with special needs range in age from infants to 18 years. In general, children with special needs are those who:

  1. Have a physical or health problem
  2. Are older
  3. Are members of ethnic or racial minorities
  4. Have a history of abuse and/or neglect
  5. Have emotional problems
  6. Have siblings and need to be adopted as a group
  7. Test positive for HIV
  8. Have documented conditions that may lead to future problems
  9. Were prenatally exposed to drugs and/or alcohol.

Almost all children who meet the special needs guidelines and who are available for adoption are currently in the public foster care system. Some have moved through several different foster placements.

Source: US Administration for Children and Families

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.

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