Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - West Virginia

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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:

  • Eight years of age and older and under the age of 18
  • Member of a racial or ethnic minority
  • Member of a sibling group needing placement together
  • An emotional, physical, mental or medical 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.)

Not to exceed $2,000 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.)

West Virginia offers deferred adoption assistance. The child must be in the custody of the department or a licensed West Virginia child placing agency and at risk of developing a special need in the future. The Deferred Adoption Assistance Agreement allows the adoptive parents who are not presently requesting assistance or who is not approved for assistance to receive assistance in the future if the child should develop a qualified condition. In order to qualify for this deferral, there must be factors in the child’s background or birth parent’s histories that could predispose the child to future special needs. The parent must request the deferral prior to the adoption finalization.

If a condition develops, the adoptive parent(s) may submit a written request with medical documentation to the Bureau for Children and Families to activate the child’s adoption assistance. Medicaid, cash assistance, and/or a conditional subsidy may be requested. Any assistance will not be retroactive; it will become effective when the child’s eligibility for special needs assistance has been established.

 

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

Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in West Virginia at adoption finalization.

The adoption assistance agreement is entered into shortly after adoption placement and establishes the payment level of assistance. During this period of trial placement of a State ward the payment is generated at that rate but the funds come from foster care.

 

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 adoptive parent(s) may request a change in the adoption assistance agreement anytime there is a change in the circumstances of the family or the needs of the child. Such circumstances include changes in family or child resources, or the special needs of the child. Adoptive parent(s) must submit a formal written request and provide documentation of the need for modification of the agreement. Adoptive parent(s) can request a conditional service at the time of need. If the child qualifies for assistance at the time of the adoption, but the adoptive parent(s) elect not to receive part or all of the assistance, the family must sign the refusal clause of the adoption subsidy agreement. This clause allows for reapplication for assistance, in the future, if needed. If the request is approved, an addendum to the initial agreement will be completed to cover a time-limited service or to extend the adoption assistance agreement until the child’s 21st birthday if the child's mental or physical disability warrants the continuation of assistance.

The request may be for an increase in cash assistance up to the current ceiling or it may be for a service unique to the needs of the child. Every request is considered but not all requests are approved.

All requests for change or services must be in writing and signed by the parent to document the type of request and date requested. Written requests can be in an informal letter with attached documentation to verify the change in need. Requests for change to the initial agreement are sent to the adoption assistance program specialist at the Division of Children and Adult Services. An administrative committee reviews extraordinary or unique requests to determine eligibility.

The adoption assistant program specialist will negotiate specifics via phone and prepare an addendum to the initial adoption assistance agreement to reflect the negotiation, which is signed by all parties. If the request is denied, a letter is sent notifying the adoptive parent. Denial letters inform adoptive parent(s) they may request a fair hearing if they do not agree with the Department’s decision.

 

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

Postadoption services in West Virginia, referred to as adoption preservation services, are administered by the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Children and Families, and contracted through the Administrative Service Organization system. Many counties also provide foster/adopt support groups and can pair new adoptive families with more tenured adoptive families for support and advice. For a list of adoption preservation services providers, adoptive parents may contact their adoption assistance worker, home finder, adoption specialist, or the county Bureau for Children and Families office .

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate West Virginia'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 West Virginia are administered by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR), Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BBHHF). The BBHHF works to ensure that positive meaningful opportunities are available for people with mental illness (children, adolescents, and adults), substance abuse, intellectual and developmental disabilities and those at risk. The Bureau provides support for individuals, families, and communities in assisting persons to achieve their potential and to gain greater control over the direction of their future.

The Division of Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health is the Single State Authority for Children's Mental Health charged with monitoring and improving the children's behavioral health service delivery system. The Division works collaboratively across all child serving systems, at both the state and local level, to ensure access to quality behavioral health services and supports for children and adolescents with and or at risk for serious emotional disturbances. The Division provides leadership and technical assistance to facilitate an effective system of care for children and their families.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker, adoption specialist, local mental health provider, 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?

West Virginia has a program known as Conditional Subsidy. Funding is available for time-specified, short-term assistance to meet medical expenses not covered by Medicaid (except for therapeutic hospitalization). Need for such services must be based on conditions preexisting adoption finalization and should be included in the adoption assistance agreement. Assistance is granted on a case-by-case basis and is subject to the availability of funds. Financial support for extraordinary needs or services is subject to the approval of the administrative management team. Contact the adoption assistance program specialist for program specifics.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance program specialist 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 parent(s) can request a fair hearing whenever there is disagreement with a DHHR decision that affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits. Adoptive parent(s) are advised of their right to a fair hearing and may request a fair hearing if they are denied or dissatisfied with any service. The adoption assistance/DHHR worker will provide a hearing request form that the parent must complete and return to the worker. Adoptive parent(s) are initially offered a pre-hearing conference with the supervisor and the worker. If the issue not resolved at the pre-hearing conference, the completed fair hearing form is then forwarded to the Board of Review for assignment to a hearing officer. More information may be found in the DHHR's pre-hearing conference and Fair Hearing request form.

The right to a fair hearing is explained verbally by the home finders and adoption workers during the home study and placement process and is also on all the social service forms that the adoptive parents sign, including the adoption assistance agreement, and on any denial notification. The Chairman of the Board registers the grievance and then notifies the appropriate program specialist in the Division of Children and Adult Services of a request for a fair hearing. A conference is arranged to review the case to determine whether policy and procedures were appropriately applied in the situation raised by the grievance. If policy or procedure was not followed then the state concedes. If it was followed then the Chairman will assign the case to the appropriate State Hearing officer. The hearing is usually scheduled within thirty days of the request and all parties are notified at least ten days prior to the date of the hearing. The hearing will be conducted and after all information is presented the hearing officer will attempt to reconcile the differences. If no agreement is reached, the hearing officer will make a decision in the form of a summary with a cover letter within fifteen working days. An adoptive parent(s) may make a grievance within ninety days of a perceived adverse action regarding treatment by departmental personnel, any concern related to social services received or denied, denial of cash or medical assistance or an increase thereof, or denial of a post-finalization application for adoption assistance.

The initial fair hearing request is sent to the staff person whose decision resulted in the adoptive parent’s dissatisfaction. The staff person and their supervisor review the situation with the parent to resolve the problem. If no solution is achieved the supervisor will assist the parent in completing the grievance form. The form is submitted immediately to the Chairman of the Board of Review. Adoptive parent(s) may also submit this form themselves or may make a complaint in the form of a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Review. The Supervisor must submit a grievance form after the grievance is assigned to a hearing officer. Adoptive parent(s) must call or write their social service adoption worker, their supervisor, or contact the Board of Review directly to request a fair hearing. The Department must receive the hearing request within ninety days of the mailing date of the notice of action being protested. The Board of Review will send the parent a notice giving the date, time, and place of the hearing after the request for a hearing is received. This notice will be sent at least ten days before the hearing. The notice also explain to Adoptive parent(s) what to do if they cannot come to the hearing as scheduled. Adoptive parent(s) may bring witnesses, friends, relatives, or a lawyer to assist in the presentation of their case. Everyone presenting testimony will be sworn in. The hearing officer will record the hearing and listen to both sides but will not make a decision at the hearing. Adoptive parent(s) will receive a written decision and transcript in the mail, issued by the hearing officer within fifteen days of the hearing. If a parent disagrees with the hearing decision, the written decision will explain how to contest the decision through an appeal.

 

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

Yes. West Virginia has a guardianship assistance program. Specific details may be found in the State Legal Guardianship Policy.

 

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

Legal guardianship should be considered for a child when the following conditions have been met:

  • The permanency goals of reunification and adoption have been ruled out by the Multidisciplinary Treatment Team
  • The child has resided with the prospective guardian for at least 6 months immediately prior to establishing legal guardianship and was eligible for foster care maintenance payments
  • The guardianship home was certified or approved as meeting the requirements as a foster home during the 6 months prior to establishing legal guardianship
  • The child must be at least 12 years old if he/she is in the home of an unrelated caretaker, unless the Multidisciplinary Treatment Team decides that it would be in the child’s best interest to do Legal Guardianship at a younger age
  • The best interest determination must be documented in the child’s case plan
  • The child must have a strong attachment to the prospective legal guardian and the guardian must have a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child
  • The child who is 14 years of age or older, has been consulted regarding the guardianship arrangement

 

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

In West Virginia, the Department has defined kinship/relatives for the purposes of the placement of children as “any person related to the child by blood or marriage including cousins and in-laws. This includes persons who the child considers a relative, such as a godparent or significant others whom the child claims as kin may also be considered as a placement resource”. Legal Guardianship is still permitted with non-kinship/relative but will not be IV-E reimbursable.

 

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