Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Florida

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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 with special needs is defined as a child that has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to placement or adoption without financial assistance:

  • Age 8 or older
  • Member of a sibling group being placed for adoption together
  • African American or racially mixed
  • Significant emotional ties with his or her foster parents or a relative caregiver
  • Mental, physical, or emotional handicap

 

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.)

$1,000 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.)

Florida offers deferred adoption assistance. If at the time the child is placed for adoption, the adoptive parents choose not to receive adoption assistance for the child, they are encouraged to sign the initial assistance agreement with a payment amount of zero ($0) listed in the agreement. Establishing a deferred adoption assistance agreement preserves future active adoption assistance eligibility for the child in the event that the family needs assistance in meeting the needs of the child.

 

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

Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in Florida at adoption placement. Subsidy payments cannot be provided to the family until all parties have signed the adoption assistance agreement.

 

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 amount of subsidy may be adjusted based upon changes in the needs of the child or circumstances of the adoptive parents. Changes shall not be made without the concurrence of the adoptive parents. However, in no case shall the amount of the monthly payment exceed the foster care maintenance payment that would have been paid during the same period if the child had been in a foster family home. To start this process, families are directed to contact the adoption unit or private adoption agency through which they adopted the child. Families are directed to contact (1) the social worker or department through which they receive their adoption assistance check, (2) the unit through which they finalized the adoption or (3) the district administrator at their local Children and Family Services office.

Adoptive parents may appeal any decision of the department with which they disagree. They may seek redress through levels of the departmental administration up to and including the district administrator. If an issue is not resolved to a family’s satisfaction, they may request a fair hearing pursuant to Florida statute.

 

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

Post adoption services in Florida are administered by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Family Safety and Preservation Program Office. The DCFS and contracted agencies provide various services, depending on location. Statewide, adoptive families are directed to contact their adoption assistance worker, the county Department of Children and Families or the unit through which they finalized the adoption. See Post Adoption Support.

 

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Florida’s respite programs.

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 Florida are administered by the Department of Children and Families, Substance Abuse and Mental Health. The Children’s Mental Health system of care is public-funded and serves eligible children with serious emotional disturbance, children with emotional disturbance, and children at risk of emotional disturbance, within the amount of funds appropriated for these services. Mental health services in Florida are received through various programs including:

Community Mental Health: Includes rehabilitative services which are either psychiatric in nature, rendered or recommended by a psychiatrist; or medical in nature, rendered or recommended by a psychiatrist or other physician.

Early Intervention: Includes medical and remedial services designed to enhance the capacity of children with conditions causing a delay in normal development. The services include screenings, evaluations and medically related early intervention services, such as nutritional, psychological, audiological, nursing, developmental, social work, speech language pathology and parent training.

Intermediate Care Facility Services for the Mentally Retarded or Developmentally Disabled: Provided to individuals who, because of their mental or physical condition, require care and services which can be made available to them only through institutional facilities.

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?

Florida offers a program known as Medical Subsidy that can be requested at any time. The subsidy can be received for the length of time that the condition for which subsidy was sought exists, or until the child turns eighteen years of age, whichever occurs first. The need for medical subsidy must be supported by documentation of that need from appropriate professionals and established and authorized prior to the adoptive placemen. The need or potential need for the Medical Subsidy program must also be documented in the adoption assistance agreement. Medical and medically related service costs may be subsidized under this program for conditions which pre-existed the adoption and can not include costs that can be covered by the family's private insurance or other available medical coverage.

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.)

Adoptive parents may appeal any decision of the department with which they disagree and seek redress through levels of departmental administration up to and including the district administrator. Fair hearings must be requested in writing to the adoption specialist or the appropriate entity in the community based care agency. If a dispute cannot be settled at the counselor/supervisor level, the Adoption Review Committee will be convened. The adoption counselor, adoption specialist, family safety program administrator or the appropriate entities with the community-based provider may make requests for committee review. To start this process, families are directed to contact the adoption unit or private adoption agency through which they adopted the child. Families are directed to contact (1) the social worker or department through which they receive their adoption assistance payment (2) the unit through which they finalization the adoption or (3) the district administrator at their local Department of Children and Families (DCFS) office.

 

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. If the child does not meet the IV-E eligibility criteria, Florida will use State funds.

  • Does the guardianship assistance program differ from the adoption assistance program? Yes
  • If so, how does it differ? With adoption assistance an individual does not have to be licensed but must have an approved adoption home study (within 1 year of adoptive placement); the adoption subsidy amount is greater than guardianship payments; subsidy payment is also different and additional benefits are available to adoptive parents.

 

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

Information about the Guardianship Assistance Program is addressed in Chapter 65C-44 of the Florida Administrative Rules.

 

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

Yes. Families must meet the definition of relative or fictive kin. “Relative” means a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, first cousin, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, niece, or nephew, whether related by the whole or half blood, by affinity, or by adoption. The term does not include a stepparent. "Fictive kin” means a person unrelated by birth, marriage, or adoption who has an emotionally significant relationship, which possesses the characteristics of a family relationship, to a child.

 

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