Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Tennessee

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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:

  • Nine years of age or older and Caucasian
  • Member of a minority race or ethnic group, 2 years of age or older
  • Member of a sibling group of two or more children to be placed in the same adoptive home
  • Moderate to severe medical, physical, or psychological condition, as diagnosed by a physician, psychologist or licensed mental health professional and the identified condition requires treatment
  • Life experiences include neglect, physical abuse and/or sexual abuse as indicated by Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) or adjudicated by a court and as defined by T.C.A. 37-1-102 (23) (A-(D) 'Severe Abuse'
  • Three or more consecutive years in Tennessee DCS custody
  • A medically diagnosed disability which substantially limits one or more major life activities, requires professional treatment, and assistance in self-care
  • Diagnosed to be mentally disabled by a qualified professional
  • Diagnosed by a qualified professional to have a behavioral or emotional disorder characterized by inappropriate behavior, which deviates substantially from behavior appropriate to the child’s age or significantly interferes with child’s intellectual, social, and personal functioning
  • Meets all of the medical and disability requirements for SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

 

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.)

$1,500 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.)

Tennessee offers deferred adoption assistance. Children who are recognized as high-risk and have the potential to develop significant medical, psychological, emotional, or behavioral issues due to their history are eligible for deferred adoption assistance.

 

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

Adoption assistance payments and benefits begin in Tennessee at adoption finalization.

 

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 Department of Children Services (DCS) may adjust adoption assistance rates across the board based on availability of funds or changes in policy. This adjustment will always be applied to the adoption assistance rate currently contracted for the child. Other increases are limited to those where proper documentation is presented that demonstrates a change in the child’s needs or circumstances. Adoption assistance agreements/renewals are subject to review at any time for correction of errors or oversight. Adoptive parents can request a change in the adoption assistance at any point after the initial approval by contacting the permanency specialist or their adoption assistance worker by phone in the local DCS. Supporting professional documentation must be provided by the parent to the permanency specialist or their adoption assistance worker. The documentation must be reviewed by the central office subsidy unit supervisor to determine if the current level of assistance is still appropriate or if an increase in the adoption assistance rate is warranted. If the request is denied, the parent can appeal the decision by requesting and completing the “Appeal for Fair Hearing” form. More details may be found in the Subsidy Manual for Adoption Assistance and Subsidized Permanent Guardianship. Additional information can be received by contacting the Tennessee DCS Administrative Procedures Division at:

Tennessee DCS Administrative Procedures Division
200 Athens Way, 2nd Floor, Suite B
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-1110
Fax: (615) 741-4518

 

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

Post adoption services in Tennessee are administered by the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) through DCS, private agencies, and parent groups.

DCS currently provides targeted case management services through the Family Support Services program to any family with a child at risk of entering State custody. The Adoption Support And Preservation (ASAP) program and the Guardianship Support and Preservation Program (GSAP) are designed to support and promote a family's success on every level and at every stage of the adoption and guardianship journey. Families may contact the ASAP/GSAP Helpline by calling 1.888.848.2727 to request services or to learn more about the program. Parents can also contact the Adoption Services Unit for information at (877) 327-5437.

Various parent and private organizations such as the Tennessee Foster Adoptive Care Association provide support to adoptive families.

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Tennessee'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. For other inquires, see the DCS Tennessee Regional contact information.

 

What mental health services are provided by your State?

Public mental health services in Tennessee are administered by of Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHDD).

Tennessee’s Medicaid program is known as TennCare. Individuals enrolled in the TennCare program may receive medically necessary behavioral health services through their managed care organization including inpatient hospitalization, outpatient services, and supported housing. Individuals not qualifying for TennCare (Medicaid) may qualify for basic mental health services as uninsured individuals through local community mental health centers. Uninsured persons may also receive inpatient hospitalization as medically necessary. Housing options may also be available for this population. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse bureau provides Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment services to uninsured individuals as medically necessary through a network of providers.

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?

Tennessee does not provide additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under their state medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance. No additional financial assistance or services are available outside of the adoption assistance agreement.

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 can request a fair hearing whenever there is disagreement with a Department of Children’s Services (DCS) decision that affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits. “Appeal for Fair Hearing” forms are available through the Permanency Specialist in the local DCS office. The completed form is returned to the Permanency Specialist who forwards the form to the Appeals Hearing Officer. The hearing is then scheduled by the Hearing Officer. If the parents disagree with the hearing decision, they can request a reconsideration of the decision. The adoptive parents may, as a final recourse, file an appeal in Chancery Court. Additional information can be received by contacting the Tennessee DCS Administrative Procedures Division at:

Administrative Procedures Division
Plaza Tower-Metro Center
200 Athens Way, 2nd Floor, Suite B
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-1110
Fax: (615) 741-4518

DCS Tennessee Regional contact information.

 

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

Yes. Tennessee has a subsidized permanent guardianship program which offers assistance with non-recurring costs of establishing guardianship, ongoing financial assistance not to exceed current foster care payment amounts and Medicaid eligibility.

 

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

Criteria for determining eligibility are illustrated in the Tennessee Department of Children Services Subsidy Manual for Adoption Assistance And Subsidized Permanent Guardianship.

 

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