Virginia State Adoption Assistance Program
By: John Whitbeck
There may be some benefits available for parents considering adopting a child in foster care in Virginia. Policies regarding adoption subsidies are primarily dependent on what state the child was in foster care before being adopted. Hiring a Virginia adoption attorney can be beneficial when navigating the adoption process.
What is the Adoption Assistance Program?
Also known as an adoption subsidy, the Virginia adoption assistance program can help parents meet the needs of the children they are adopting from foster care. Depending on the child’s history, a child may qualify for state or federal assistance.
Eligibility for Adoption Assistance Programs
It’s important to understand what Virginia deems as special needs to determine eligibility for adoption assistance. The child must be:
- Under 18 years old
- In the custody of a licensed child-placing agency (LCPA) or social services at the time you file the adoption petition
- Legally free to adopt, with all parental rights terminated
- Placed by the agency with prospective parents who plan to adopt
Additionally, the child must have special needs that, without assistance, would make it hard to place him or her with adoptive parents. He or she should have one or more of these characteristics:
- Six years old or over, and in foster care for 18 months or more
- Pre-existing physical, emotional, or mental condition
- One or more siblings in the same placement home
- Hereditary congenital defect or a birth injury that has strong potential to lead to future disability
- Minority group based on ethnic, racial, or multi-racial heritage
Services and Support Available
There is a maximum monthly amount you can receive in Virginia, which is based on the child’s age. The current amounts are:
- Ages 0-4 — $462
- Ages 5-12 —$541
- Ages 13+ — $686
There may be enhanced maintenance payments in some scenarios. Social Services makes that determination using the Virginia Enhanced Maintenance Assessment Tool (VEMAT), which sets an amount that will serve as the maximum cap for negotiating the final assistance payment. Whatever the amount is, the payment cannot exceed what would’ve been received had the child been in foster care.
Special Service Payments may also be an option in select situations. This payment covers services that are not covered by insurance which the adoptive parents cannot afford. It will pay for things like medical and dental care, eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetics, crutches, speech or physical therapy, individual tutoring, medical premiums for kids not covered under a family policy, or psychological or psychiatric evaluations.
Adoptive parents may be reimbursed up to $2,000 per child for their one-time expenses like adoption agency fees, attorney fees, court costs, and transportation costs related to the placement of the child. Parents must submit receipts or bills before any payments are issued, and all payment requests must be received within six months after the end of the month when the expense was incurred.
Families interested in applying for adoption assistance must apply with their local Social Services Department. If you are interested in learning more about adoption options in Virginia, having a Virginia family law attorney with adoption experience is important as the procedure can be complex in some situations.