Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Pennsylvania

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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:

  • The child is free for adoption
  • The child has a qualifying factor or condition (see list below)
  • Reasonable efforts were made to place the child without adoption assistance unless it is not in the child’s best interest; for example, if there is the existence of significant emotional bond between the adoptee and the adoptive parents

For a child to be determined to have a qualifying factor or condition, he or she must meet at least one of the following circumstances:

  • Be 5 years of age or older and under the age of 18 or 21
  • Be a member of a racial or ethnic minority group
  • Be a member of sibling group of two or more placed together in the same adoptive home
  • Have a physical, mental, emotional condition or disability
  • Have a genetic condition that indicates a high risk of developing a disease or disability

 

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.)

$2000 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.)

Pennsylvania does not have deferred adoption assistance agreements. However, if an adoption assistance payment is not required at the time the agreement is signed or negotiated, a $0 payment may be specified in the Adoption Assistance Agreement. This practice allows for renegotiation if the circumstances of the child or adoptive family change.

 

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

Adoption assistance payments and benefits begin on the effective date of the agreement. That date may be prior to adoption finalization if the parental rights to the child have been terminated, the child is placed in the prospective adoptive home, the adoption agreement has been signed, and the adoption petition has been 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 Children and Youth Agency or the adoptive parents may request a change in the adoption assistance agreement and renegotiate the terms of the agreement at any point while the agreement is in effect. The family must make a written request to the agency to modify the monthly adoption assistance payment due to changes in the needs of the child or the circumstances of the family. The family must provide documentation related to the change in the needs of the child or the circumstances of the family that support the request for change.

The agency is required to contact the parents annually to assess the child's needs and the circumstances of the family. The agency may request a renegotiation if significant changes in the circumstances of the child or family are reported. Any changes must be made with the concurrence of the adoptive parents and the county agency. Changes in the terms of the adoption assistance agreement require a new agreement be signed by both the county agency and the adoptive parents. If a parent does not receive the requested change, the parent may appeal the agency’s decision.

Contact information for regional offices may be found on the Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth, and Families website.

 

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

Postadoption services are available through the Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Children, Youth and Families, and through the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN).

Eligibility is open to all adoptive, kinship, and permanent legal custodian placements from the child welfare system. Families may self refer for SWAN post-permanency services by calling 1.800.585.SWAN (7926) or visiting the SWAN website. Eligibility is open to all adoptive, kinship, and permanent legal custodian placements from the child welfare system. Families may self refer for SWAN post-permanency services by calling 1.800.585.SWAN (7926) or visiting the SWAN website.

More postadoption information and resources are available from the following DHS affiliate agencies:

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Pennsylvania'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 Pennsylvania are administered through county Mental Health and Developmental Services (MH/DS) program offices. The county MH/DS offices serve as a referral source. Most actual mental health services are delivered by local provider agencies under contract with the county MH/DS office. The county MH/DS office determines a person's eligibility for service funding, assesses the need for treatment or other services, and makes referrals to appropriate programs to fit treatment and/or other service needs.

Services include the following examples:

  • behavioral health rehabilitation services
  • psychiatric inpatient, psychiatric outpatient clinic
  • psychological services, prescription drugs
  • targeted case management
  • drug/alcohol inpatient and outpatient care

Pennsylvania's Special Kids Network System of Care program works to remove barriers and challenges some families experience when trying to get services for their children. As an example, local, community-based program coordinators bring service providers together with parents to discuss parent concerns about the services their children receive, or they may create a program to help students transitioning out of high school connect more with work and school in their communities. Coordinators are located throughout Pennsylvania and provide the framework for the activities of the Special Kids Network System of Care program.

The Office of Developmental Programs provides individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, and their families the services and supports they need.

The Home and Community Services Information System (HCSIS) Services and Supports Directory is a tool for individuals with mental retardation, their families, and circle of support to locate services and service providers in Pennsylvania. The directory can help locate particular service providers or search for services and supports provided in an individual's community. The directory does not include information on all providers but only of those that have chosen to be listed in it. The directory also provides information about specific services funded by the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) under the home and community-based waiver programs.

The Home and Community Services Information System (HCSIS) maintains a current listing of all county HCSIS offices.

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?

Pennsylvania does not offer additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under its state medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance. However, uncovered costs may prompt an adoptive family to request a renegotiation of their adoption assistance agreement, particularly if the child’s medical or therapeutic needs have increased since the agreement was originally signed. In no case may the adoption assistance payments exceed the amount the county agency would expend to maintain the child in foster care.

 

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.)

The adoptive family can request a fair hearing whenever a Department of Human Services (DHS) county Children and Youth Agency's decision affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits. If the adoptive parents feel they have been wrongly denied benefits on behalf of an adoptive child, they have the right to a fair hearing at any time. Allegations that constitute grounds for a fair hearing include:

  • Relevant facts regarding the child were known or should have been reasonably known by the public or private agency and were not presented to the adoptive parents prior to the finalization of the adoption.
  • Denial of assistance based upon a means test of the adoptive family.
  • Adoptive family disagreement that a child is ineligible for adoption assistance.
  • Failure by the CCYA to advise potential adoptive parents about the availability of adoption assistance for children in the state foster care system.
  • Decrease in the amount of adoption assistance without the concurrence of the adoptive parents.
  • Denial of a request for a change in payment level due to a change in the adoptive parents’ or child’s circumstances.

An appeal must be filed by the family in writing within fifteen calendar days of receiving written notice of an adverse decision from the County Children and Youth Agency (CCYA). Upon receipt of the appeal, the CCYA shall date stamp the appeal and submit the appeal with a copy of the agency action that is being appealed to the DHS Bureau of Hearing and Appeals within three working days. They have exclusive authority to grant or dismiss the appeal. Any existing benefit in an adoption assistance agreement continues during the appeal process. The CCYA is responsible for the following:

  • Explaining to parents the process of filing an appeal (fair hearing request).
  • If necessary, helping the parents to complete the written appeal request.
  • Explaining that all oral appeal requests must be put in writing within three days of the oral request.
  • Assuring that the appellant has signed the appeal.
  • Date-stamping the appeal when it is received and reviewing it to determine if its actions were in accordance with DHS regulations and policies.
  • Taking steps to arrive at a settlement that can be approved by the DHS Bureau of Hearings and Appeals without a hearing.
  • Forwarding any appeals that are not resolved at the CCYA level within three working days from the date the written appeal request was received and date stamped to:

Bureau of Hearings and Appeals
Department of Human Services
2330 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Phone: (717)705-0436 or 2260

If the appeal is denied by the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, the family may request, within fifteen days of the denial, that the Secretary of Human Services reconsider the decision. The family may also file a Petition for Review with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court within thirty days of the mailing of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals decision. Both of these options may be pursued at the same time.

 

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

Pennsylvania has a Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship program that provides for a permanent placement for children who are under the custody of the County Children and Youth Agency who cannot return to their home and for whom adoption is not a suitable option.

 

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

A child who meets all of the following:

  • Has a court-ordered disposition of placement with a permanent legal custodian pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 6351(a)(2.1) (relating to disposition of dependent child)
  • Has lived with an eligible permanent legal custodian for at least six months, which need not be consecutive
  • Is a citizen or an alien lawfully residing in this Commonwealth

 

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