Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - New Jersey

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 with special needs is defined as a child who the State of New Jersey has the legal right to place for adoption, or any child who is legally free and is being placed by a private adoption agency with a certificate of approval to provide adoption services in New Jersey, but who is reasonably expected not to be placed for adoption due to the lack of a prospective adoptive home or any of the following reasons:

  • Age 10 years or older
  • A serious medical or dental condition that will require repeated or frequent hospitalization or treatment
  • Any physical handicap that makes the child totally or partially incapacitated for education or the potential to earn income
  • Any substantial disfigurement
  • Diagnosed emotional, mental health, or behavioral problem, psychiatric disorder, serious intellectual incapacity, or brain damage that seriously affects the child’s ability to relate to his or her peers or authority figures, including but not limited to a diagnosed developmental disability
  • Member of a group of three or more siblings (including half siblings) placed together even though the first and second sibling receive no subsidy
  • One of two siblings (including half siblings), one of whom meets the special needs criteria, and the resource home is considered the most appropriate setting for the siblings or the child is being placed in the home with a sibling receiving subsidy
  • Member of an ethnic or minority group from whom adoptive homes are not readily available to Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P)
  • Abuse or neglect that resulted in an out-of-home placement by CP&P
  • Meeting the medical or disability requirements for Supplemental Security Incomes
  • Any other condition that may be approved by the CP&P director or designee that is not contrary to Federal or State statute and regulations, including, but not limited to:
    • High risk of developmental, educational, or emotional problems secondary to prenatal drug exposure
    • High risk of genetic predisposition to mental illness due to parental mental health history
    • Placement with relative or kin who will not adopt without subsidy


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 $2,000 per child (this amount includes a maximum of $500 for reimbursement of legal fees for each child). Reimbursement of non-recurring expenses may be made up to 2 years post adoption finalization, or, if the adoption is disrupted, within 2 years of the disruption, if the adoption is not finalized.


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.)

An adoptive family may re-apply for adoption subsidy on behalf of a child placed by the Department of Children and Families and initially found ineligible for the subsidy benefit. Subsidy application is allowed at any time after finalization if the child develops problems traceable to his or her genetic heritage or pre-adoptive experiences.

If the child is determined to have special needs, the subsidy is effective retroactive to the date of the re-application, unless the family caused an undue delay (3 months or longer) by not providing sufficient documentation in a timely manner.


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

Adoption assistance payments are made to adoptive parent(s) who have entered into a written adoption assistance agreement with the division before the finalization of the adoption.


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 can request a change in the adoption assistance agreement if the child develops a condition that requires a higher level of care. However, this condition must be traceable to his or her genetic heritage or preadoptive experiences. To request a change, the parents must submit a written request and professional supporting documentation that provides current evaluations and diagnosing reports. Together, the adoptive parent and the subsidy specialist will complete the rate assessment to determine the rate based on current level of care. The assistant director of the Office of Adoption Operations makes the final decision regarding approval for a rate increase.


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

Postadoption services in New Jersey are administered by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Office of Adoption Operations, primarily through contracted, nonprofit agencies. The New Jersey Adoption Resource Clearinghouse provides families with direct access to information and services through the Internet or by phone (1-877-427-2465).

More information may be found in the New Jersey Guide to Post Adoption Resources.

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


What mental health services are provided by your State?

DCF's Children's System of Care (CSOC), formerly the Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, serves children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral health care challenges and their families; children with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families; and, children with substance use challenges and their families. More information can be found at the State of New Jersey, Division of Children and Families website.

For questions about how to access behavioral health services for children and youth and for information on the application process, please call the 24-hour, toll-free Access Line at: 877.652.7624

Family Support Organizations (FSO’s) are family-run, county-based organizations that provide direct family-to-family peer support, education, advocacy and other services to family members of children with emotional and behavioral problems. To access services, you may call these organizations directly. Access the FSO webpage.

For questions about New Jersey Medicaid call: 800.356.1561 or your County Welfare Agency.


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?

New Jersey offers what is known as a Special Service Subsidy. The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) is responsible for the cost of services and items necessary to meet the special needs of the child.

Special services expenses resulting from a condition which qualified the child for the adoption subsidy and which are not covered by the adoptive parent's health insurance or Medicaid may be covered for reimbursement by the Division if specified in the approved adoption agreement, CP&P Form 14-184, Initial Agreement Between the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency and Adoptive Parents Regarding Subsidy Payments.

In order for CP&P to pay for a special service, determine if:

  • The child has documented exceptional needs that require support services that cannot reasonably be expected to be met from the subsidy board payments; and
  • No other source or program is available or able to pay for the service, including New Jersey Medicaid and the adoptive parent's privately held health insurance. It is the responsibility of the special services provider to consult with the local Medical Assistance Customer Center to determine whether the service is one which the New Jersey Medicaid program reimburses

Covered expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Speech therapy,
  • Physical therapy,
  • Special training, and
  • Home or van renovation (not purchases) to meet the needs of a child


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.)

An adoptive parent has the right to request an administrative hearing if he or she wishes to appeal an adverse decision regarding:

  • Adoption subsidy payments or services (including denial, inadequate or inappropriate amount, suspension, or termination); or
  • The failure of the Department of Children and Families (DCF)/Division of Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) to act with reasonable promptness on an application for such payments or services.


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.


  • Does the guardianship assistance program differ from the adoption assistance program? Yes
  • If so, how does it differ? Guardianship assistance cannot be transferred to another caretaker should the caretaker pass away or become unable to care for the child. Kinship Legal Guardianship Assistance Medicaid cannot be granted on a non IV-E eligible youth out of State. Medicaid in the other State would have to be means tested.


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

The provisions of the Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG) Subsidy Program and the Federal Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program are outlined in the New Jersey Department of Children and Families' Policy Manual.


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

No. Kinship legal guardianship subsidy is available to kinship caregivers related to a child in placement through blood, marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or adoption. Kinship caregivers may also be connected to the child by an established positive psychological or emotional relationship. All relatives and family friends caring for a child under Child Protection & Permanency supervision are required by the State of New Jersey to be a licensed resource parent.


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