Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Colorado

Date: September 2023

What specific factors or conditions does your State consider to determine that a child cannot be placed with an adoptive family without providing financial assistance? ("What is your State definition of special needs?")

A child must be legally free for adoption and have special needs to be eligible for assistance. Colorado’s regulations determine a child to have special needs, if the child meets any of the following criteria:

  • Physical disability (such as hearing, vision, or physical impairment; neurological conditions; disfiguring defects; and heart defects)
  • Mental disability (such as developmental delay or mental retardation, perceptual or speech/language disability, or a metabolic disorder)
  • Educational disability that qualifies for section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973 or special education services
  • Emotional disturbance (such as post-traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar disorder and other diagnoses)
  • Developmental disability resulting in educational delays or significant learning processing difficulties
  • Hereditary factors that have been documented by a physician or psychologist
  • High risk children (such as HIV-positive, drug-exposed, or alcohol-exposed in utero)
  • Other conditions that act as a serious barrier to the child’s adoption, including, but not limited to, a healthy child over the age of 7 or a sibling group that should remain intact and medical conditions likely to require further treatment
  • Ethnic background or membership in a minority group that may be difficult to place


What is the maximum amount a family may receive in non-recurring adoption expenses from your State? (Adoptive parents can receive reimbursement of certain approved, "one-time" adoption expenses incurred in the process of finalizing a special needs adoption.)

$800 per child


Does your State enter into deferred adoption assistance agreements? (In some States, adoptive parents can enter into an agreement in which they choose to defer the receipt of a Medicaid card, the monthly monetary payment, or both and can elect to receive the Medicaid card and/or monetary payment at another time.)

Colorado offers deferred adoption assistance. It is known as a 'dormant subsidy' or Medicaid-only agreement in which no monetary assistance is immediately given but Medicaid can be received if the parents choose. Documentation of the child’s special needs must be in the service record on file with the county department in order to activate the adoption assistance in the future.


When can adoption assistance payments and benefits begin in your State?

Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in Colorado at adoption placement. The county department shall determine the child’s eligibility for adoption assistance on the State-prescribed form no later than the calendar month that the adoption petition is filed.


How are changes made to the adoption assistance agreement in your State?

  • When can a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • How does a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • What if a parent does not receive the change they request in the adoption assistance agreement?

The county or adoptive family may at any time negotiate changes to an existing adoption assistance agreement based on information related to the child’s original condition or the family’s circumstances. Requests for change must be in writing and based on the needs of the child, the circumstances of the family, and the availability of services in the community. Changes in the agreement must be related to the child’s original barriers to adoption on which the decision to grant assistance was made. Requests are made to the county department that placed the child for adoption or entered into the adoption assistance agreement on behalf of the child and directed to the adoption assistance contact person in the county that provides the child’s adoption assistance.

Once a request letter is received, the adoptive family is asked to submit supporting documentation from a medical/psychological/health/school professional (such as an M.D., Ph.D., Psy.D., school, therapist, mental health, probation professional) to substantiate their request for change in the agreement. Adoption assistance agreements are reviewed every 3 years from the date of the initial agreement. If parents disagree with a decision regarding a change request, they may request an Administrative Fair Hearing. The process for requesting a fair hearing is detailed on the adoption assistance agreement forms. County contacts may be found on the Colorado Department of Human Services website.


What types of postadoption services are available in your State, and how do you find out more about them?

Colorado post adoption services are administered through the parents’ county of residence Department of Human/Social Services or the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Child Welfare Services and offered through the Colorado Post Adoption Resource Center, parent groups, and contracted organizations.

The following nonprofit organizations in Colorado are dedicated to adoption:

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Colorado’s respite programs or phone them at: 303.866.3003.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or post adoption services contact for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


What mental health services are provided by your State?

Public mental health services for children in Colorado are administered by the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) under the Medical Assistance Program and include the following examples: out patient therapy, school based therapy, in-home support, day treatment, hospitalization, residential care, crisis intervention support, prescription drugs and medication management. Limited respite care and mentors may also be available.

Each area of the state has a Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) and a Behavioral Health Organization (BHO). The BHO is responsible for providing necessary mental health services to Medicaid eligible children. Family Advocates and Consumer Representatives can assist parents in accessing needed services and resolving any dissatisfaction with services received.

Select Frequently Asked Questions or phone 800.221.3943 (outside Metro Denver) and 303.866.3513 (within Metro Denver).

If you need mental health services immediately, call 844.493.TALK (8255) or visit Colorado Crisis Services.

See also:

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or medical assistance specialist for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


Does your State provide additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under your State medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance?

Colorado offers what is known as a Medical Subsidy, a provision under Adoption Case Services. Funding is available to reimburse adoptive parents or to pay a medical provider for physical or psychological services. The need for such services must be identified in the initial adoption assistance agreement and the services received under the Medical Subsidy must relate to the special need for which adoption assistance was originally granted. Funding may be used to supplement private medical insurance and to cover services not offered under the state medical assistance plan. All other resources available to the adoptive family must be utilized before funding is available.

Colorado also offers Case Services. When the identified special needs of a child placed for adoption are not covered by the adoption assistance payment, the above Medical Subsidy program, or Medicaid, services can be provided through a Case Services. The need for such services must be identified in the initial adoption assistance agreement and the services received under the program must relate to the special need for which adoption assistance was originally granted. Services and items include the following examples: respite, medication, customized equipment, speech and physical therapy, and certain psychological services.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


What is your State's process for applying for a fair hearing? (A fair hearing is a legal, administrative procedure that provides a forum to address disagreements with agency decisions.)

There are situations after finalization when adoptive parents can request a state level fair hearing before an Administrative Law Judge concerning the adopted child’s eligibility for adoption assistance benefits or the amount of those benefits. These situations include, but are not limited to:

  • Relevant facts regarding the child that were known and not presented to the adoptive parent(s) prior to the finalization of the adoption
  • Denial of assistance based upon a means test of the adoptive family
  • Erroneous determination that a child is ineligible for adoption assistance
  • Denial of a request for a change in payment level due to a change in the adoptive parent(s)’ circumstances
  • Failure by the county or a non-profit child placement agency to advise the adoptive parent(s) about the availability of adoption assistance for children who have been identified with special needs
  • Decrease in the amount of adoption assistance without the concurrence of the adoptive parent(s) (for Title IV-E adoption assistance agreements, only)

Adoptive families are asked to submit a written letter requesting a fair hearing to the Office of Administrative Courts. Fair hearings are conducted like a legal hearing. Parents have a right to represent themselves or bring legal counsel or an advocate of their own choosing to assist in representing them. The county department will usually have legal counsel present to represent the Department. The Division of Administrative Hearings will send information to the adoptive family informing them of their right to have legal counsel present at the family’s own cost. Families may choose to request a hearing conducted over the phone or an in-person hearing. Both parties to the hearing, the parents and the Department, are present and the court case proceeds. At the end of the hearing the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) informs the parties of the timeframe for an initial decision to be reached and released. Parties have the option of filing exceptions (disagreements with the elements of the decision) once the initial decision is released. However, exceptions must be based on testimony and evidence that was presented at the hearing. An external party reviews the exceptions and a final agency decision is issued. Parties wishing to appeal the final agency decision must do so in the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Appeals.

Send written requests for fair hearing to the following address:

Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration
Office of Administrative Courts
633 17th Street, Suite 1300
Denver, Colorado 80202

Does your state, territory, or tribe offer a guardianship subsidy or assistance (monthly payments and medical coverage) program?

Yes. Assistance is available regardless of the child’s title IV-E eligibility. There is no difference in benefits or eligibility between IV-E and State/territorial/tribal guardianship programs.

  • Does the guardianship assistance program differ from the adoption assistance program? Yes
  • If so, how does it differ? In technical ways. For example, Colorado can have a Relative Guardianship Assistance Program (RGAP) with a Petition for Review of Need for Placement (PRNP). PRNP in which RGAP does not require termination of parental rights to occur. RGAP has successor guardianship. In general, the services, assistance, and support are similar. Adoption Assistance and RGAP Assistance can be provided past the youth's 18th birthday until the age of 21 if the youth/parent or guardian meets criteria. Adoption Medicaid (Emancipation Medicaid) can be extended until the age of 21 for those with Adoption Assistance Agreements versus RGAP Medicaid concludes at the youth's at age 18 unless the RGAP agreement continues or if the young adult applies for Medicaid.


What are the eligibility criteria for a child to receive guardianship assistance?

Colorado's eligibility criteria for a child/youth to receive guardianship assistance may be found on the Colorado Department of Human Services website Relative Guardianship Assistance Program.


Do families have to meet a kinship definition to receive guardianship assistance? If yes, how is kinship defined?

Yes. Colorado's definition allows for relatives, those who identify as family-like or have a prior relationship with child, including non-related foster parents that meet specific criteria.


If a specific question is not displayed, the State or Territory did not provide a response to that question.