Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Wisconsin

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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:

  • Ten years of age or older (if age is the only factor in determining eligibility)
  • Member of a minority race and children of that minority race cannot be readily placed due to a lack of appropriate placement resources
  • Member of a sibling group of three or more children
  • Child exhibits special need characteristics judged to be moderate or intensive under the schedule of difficulty-of-care levels specified in the State Code
  • At high risk of developing a moderate or intensive level of special needs

     

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.)

$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.)

A child in the guardianship of an adoption agency who does not have a known special need, but who is at high risk of developing special needs may have an adoption assistance agreement in the amount of $0. The amount specified in the agreement is effective the month of adoption finalization.

If special needs can be documented 12 months or more from the date of adoption a new, time-limited, rate may be established via an amendment to the adoption assistance agreement.

 

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

Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in Wisconsin at placement and must begin no later than 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?

Adoption assistance agreements can be amended in Wisconsin if adoptive parents believe a substantial change in circumstances has occurred and the needs of the child have changed at any time during adoptive placement and prior to finalization of the adoption. After finalization, parents must wait 12 months from the date of adoption to request an amendment to their original adoption assistance agreement if they believe a substantial change in circumstance has occurred since the initial adoption assistance agreement was signed. The family must complete and return the request for adoption assistance amendment form available from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to record the family’s observations of the child’s physical, behavioral, and emotional needs. The child’s current special needs must be documented by a professional to verify a substantial change in circumstances.

Changes to adoption assistance agreements are known as amendments. Parents interested in pursuing an amendment should contact the adoption assistance program specialist at 866.666.5532 to discuss the process and obtain the necessary information.

Prior to adoption finalization, if an applicant for adoption assistance is not satisfied with the action taken by the department on the application, or if the applicant who has been approved for or is receiving adoption assistance is not satisfied with the conditions governing the award, the applicant may request a review of the decision by the division administrator. This request must be submitted prior to adoption finalization. A request for review of a decision should be sent to the following address:

Division Administrator
Department of Children and Families
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/adoption/assistance
 

 

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

Post adoption services in Wisconsin are administered by the Division of Children and Families (DCF), through the Wisconsin Adoption and Permanency Support (WiAPS) Program, previously known as the Post Adoption Resource Centers, located throughout the State.

Adoptive parents may access contact information for the closest WiAPS program on the DCF website.

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Wisconsin'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 Wisconsin are administered by the Department of Health Services (DHS), Wisconsin Medicaid. DHS Medicaid services include the following examples: inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and intermediate care facility services for patients in institutions for mental disease; mental health and medical day treatment; mental health and psychosocial rehabilitative services, including case management services, provided by staff of a certified community support program; physician services; and prescription drugs.

In addition, ForwardHealth brings together various Department of Health Services health care and nutritional assistance benefit programs with the goal of improving health outcomes for members.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact the Department of Children and Families Adoption Services Section toll-free by calling (866) 666-5532 or Wisconsin Forward Health at 800-362-3002 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?

Adoption assistance is based on the current Uniform Foster Care Rate, which takes into account the child’s age, and a supplemental rate which is based on an assessment of the child’s emotional, behavioral, or physical and/or personal care needs. If applicable, the amount may also include an exceptional rate. Wisconsin Statutes only allow an exceptional rate to be established before the adoption is finalized. The adoption assistance rate is negotiated to cover costs not covered by Medicaid. After the adoption is finalized, the family can request minor adjustments to the supplemental rate on an annual basis, but there is no funding to cover major costs not included in the adoption assistance rate. If a monthly monetary adoption assistance amount was awarded, it consists of a basic rate that is determined by age, a supplemental rate based on the needs of the child, and exceptional rate when applicable

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or the Department’s Adoption Services Section at 866-666-5532 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.)

The Division of Hearings and Appeals' (DHA) Work and Family Services unit conducts administrative hearings required by State and Federal law for the Department of Health Services, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Administration. There are two sets of procedures for parents seeking a fair hearing regarding adoption assistance in Wisconsin. One set is the appeal process before adoption finalization and the second set is after adoption finalization.

If an applicant for adoption assistance is not satisfied with the action taken by the Department on the application prior to adoption finalization, or if the applicant who has been approved for or is receiving adoption assistance is not satisfied with the conditions governing the award, the applicant may request a review of the decision by the Division Administrator.
This request must be submitted prior to adoption finalization.
A request for review of a decision should be addressed to the following address:

Division Administrator
Department of Children and Families
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916

After adoption finalization, an adoptive parent may appeal to the Division of Hearings and Appeals regarding a contested department decision such as a denial of adoption assistance benefits or a failure of the department to inform adoptive parents of the availability of adoption assistance. A request for a hearing should be addressed to the following address:

Division of Hearings and Appeals
P.O. Box 7875
Madison, WI 53707

For questions, please contact DHAMail@wisconsin.gov.

 

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? Eligibility and process are different.

 

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

A child is eligible for the subsidized guardianship program if the following criteria are met:

  • Child is placed in out-of-home care under a Voluntary Placement Agreement, or similar tribal court order
  • Child has lived in the current home for 6 or more months
  • Child is emotionally attached to the guardian
  • Child is in agreement with the guardianship (if 14 years old or older)
  • The agency must determine that reunification with parents and adoption are not in the child’s best interest

More details and contacts may be found on the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families website Subsidized Guardianship home.

 

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

Yes. A guardian needs to be a relative or "like-kin" as described below:

  • “Like-kin” is someone who had a significant relationship with the child before the child entered out-of-home care (examples; family friends, godparents, coaches, etc.)
  • OR
  • "Like-kin” is also when a foster parent and child meet all of the following:
  • Had a relationship with the child for at least 2 years before the guardianship
  • Child is 14 years old or older
  • Child has been in foster care for 15 out of the last 22 months
  • The agency determines that placement with a relative is not in the child’s best interest

 

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