Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Georgia

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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:

  • A child who has been in the care of a public or private agency or individual other than the legal or biological parent for more than 24 consecutive months
  • A child with physical, mental, or emotional disability, as validated by a licensed physician or psychologist
  • A child who is a member of a sibling group of two or more placed in the same home
  • The child meets the medical or disability requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

 

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.)

Up to $1,500 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.)

Georgia offers deferred adoption assistance for children who have been in the permanent custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS). If a child does not meet the definition of a child with special needs prior to adoption finalization and has background factors that may lead to significant medical, physical, or emotional problems in the future, a deferred adoption assistance application is completed by the adopting parent(s).

 

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

Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in Georgia at adoptive placement for children in permanent custody of the Department of Human Services and are made to adoptive parents who have entered into an adoption assistance agreement with the agency.

 

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?

Adoptive parents may request a change in the adoption assistance agreement at any time. Georgia limits the maximum adoption assistance rate to the foster care maintenance payment amount paid for a child in a family foster home at the time of adoptive placement or the foster care maintenance payment amount that would have been paid of the child had been in a family foster home at the time of adoptive placement. However, the family may have other requests such as post-adoption services, referrals for community or agency resources, a change of address, etc. Parents should make any requests or notifications to the Regional Post Adoption Manager. If the child has been placed for adoption but the adoption is not finalized yet, parents should contact their case manager, the supervisor or county director. If parents feel they are being denied benefits or disagree with an agency’s decision regarding adoption assistance, they should contact their local Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to request a fair hearing.

All requests must be made in writing and provided to the county DFCS case manager who will forward the referral from to the appropriate agency for handling. The Office of State Administrative Hearings will notify the family, in writing, the specifics regarding the hearing. Hearings are usually held in the family’s county of residence. Parents can request that the hearing be held by phone. Parents will received notice regarding the specific rules regarding hearing. Parents should receive the administrative hearing results within 90 days. If parents do not agree with the administrative hearing they may file for an appeal. All relevant hearing information is provided to the parents.

Contact information may be found on the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) website.

 

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

Postadoption services in Georgia are administered by the Department of Human Services through the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Office of Adoptions and community resources. Each county department has a local listing that adoptive families may call. For more information regarding postadoption services, families may contact their county DCFS case manager, the adoption assistance case manager, or the Social Services Administration Unit.

Each county department has a local listing that adoptive families may call. In addition, a toll free number for the Georgia Center for Adoption Resources and Support is available to all adoptive families and will provide them with information relating to resources, support groups, local and statewide adoption related activities. The number for the resource center is 1.866.A.Parent (1.866.272.7368).

In addition, adoptive parents can contact the Georgia Center for Resources & Support for information about resources, support groups, and local and statewide adoption-related activities at 1.866.A.Parent (1.866.272.7368).

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Georgia’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 Georgia are administered through the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Office of Children, Young Adults & Families (OCFY).

CYF offers children and their families a range of treatment and support services to address emotional and behavioral problems. Early treatment of these problems is critical to help a child complete school and develop fundamental developmental skills. Services are provided at various stages in the continuum of care and include evaluation/assessment, diagnosis, counseling and medication, therapy (individual, group, and family), community support services, peer supports, crisis assessments, and physician services. These services are provided in clinics and other locations as needed, including homes, schools, detention facilities, and other community settings. For help accessing these mental health services, parents may contact their regional field office.

In a move designed to improve continuity of health care and better health outcomes, the Georgia Department of Community Health, as of March 3, 2014, transitioned children receiving Adoption Assistance Medicaid into a single Care Management Organization, Amerigroup Community of GA called Georgia Families 360°. Goals of the program are to improve access to health care services, particularly physical and behavioral health services, increase continuity of care and enhance health outcomes. Children receiving Adoption Assistance are automatically enrolled.

For access to services and immediate crisis help, call the Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) at 1-800-715-4225, available 24/7.

 

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?

For more information regarding additional supports, please contact your county DCFS Case Manager, the Adoption Assistance Case Manager or the Social Services Administration Unit (SSAU).

 

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 families can request a fair hearing any time there is a disagreement with a Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) decision affecting their child’s adoption assistance agreement.

Possible reasons for a fair hearing, related to adoption assistance, includes failure of the agency to advise potential adoptive parents about the availability of adoption assistance (AA) for children in foster care. DCFS erroneously determined child was ineligible for IVE benefits, relevant facts regarding the children were known by DFCS or the Child Placing Agency and not presented to the adoptive parents prior to finalization of the adoption which impacted the AA decision, denial of AA based on a means test of the adoptive family, decrease in the amount of AA without the concurrence of the adoptive parents and the adoptive family disagrees with the determination by the State that the child is ineligible for AA.

Counties should promptly try to resolve differences without a hearing, however if the issue cannot be resolved locally and/or if the parents requests a Fair Hearing, the request should be processed in a timely manner.

Parents are directed to contact their local county DFCS to request a fair hearing. All requests must be made in writing and provided to the county DFCS case manager who will forward the referral from to the appropriate agency for handling. The Office of State Administrative Hearings will notify the family, in writing, the specifics regarding the hearing. Hearings are usually held in the family’s county of residence. Parents can request the hearing be held by phone. The request for a telephone hearing must be made in writing to the fair hearing officer identified in the hearing notice Parents will received notice regarding the specific rules regarding hearing. Parents should receive the administrative hearing results within 90 days. If parents do not agree with the administrative hearing they may file for an appeal. All relevant hearing information is provided to the parents.

See the Office of State Administrative Hearings regarding Procedural Rules and Legal Resources.

 

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

Georgia has not elected to tap in to the IV-E guardianship program, but does operate a State funded guardianship program for children who are IV-E eligible and non-IV-E eligible.

  • Does the guardianship assistance program differ from the adoption assistance program? Yes
  • If so, how does it differ? The rates are different, and adoption assistance is funded with Title IV-E and State funds whereas guardianship is funded with State funds only.

 

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

Eligibility criteria are outlined in the Georgia Department of Human Services Child Welfare Policy Manual.

 

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

No.

 

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