New Jersey Family Lawyers: Am I Entitled to a Subsidy If I Adopt a Child That is Placed With Me By the Department of Children and Families?

Adopt a ChildIf you choose to adopt a child through the New Jersey Department Children and Families (hereinafter referred to as the “Department”), you may be entitled to an adoption subsidy or a monthly payment from the Department for the support and maintenance of that child.

Whether you will be entitled to an adoption subsidy upon the adoption of the child will depend on whether the child to be adopted is determined to be a “special needs child” (or if other circumstances are present) and if you are licensed by the State of New Jersey as a “resource parent” at the time that the adoption is finalized. N.J.A.C. 10:121-1.3. A “resource parent” is defined as “a person who has received a resource parent license from the State of New Jersey in order to provide foster, adoptive or kinship care.” N.J.A.C. 10:121-1.1. Prior to the finalization of the adoption, a Department representative will determine if the child is a special needs child or if other circumstances apply. A child may be determined to be a special needs child for several reasons including but not limited to, a medical or dental condition that will require repeated or frequent hospitalization or treatment, a physical handicap, a diagnosed emotional, mental health or behavioral problem, psychiatric disorder, serious intellectual incapacity or brain damage. [1] Parents also can get subsidies, depending upon the child’s age and other factors.

Many times, as in the case with very young children, it is difficult to determine whether a child should be considered a “special needs” child as psychological disorders may not be readily diagnosable at a very young age. Often the psychological tests that can be utilized to diagnose older children with psychological disorders are not appropriate for use on very young children. Furthermore, on occasion, very little information is provided regarding the biological parents’ medical and psychological history, including the biological parents’ history of substance abuse and whether the biological mother was engaging in such behavior when the child was in utero. Therefore, where a child under the age of 5 is placed with a resource parent and the child does not appear to qualify for an adoption subsidy, except for the possibility of a psychological problem that has yet to be diagnosed, it is extremely important to make sure that you are provided all of the pertinent records regarding the child and the child’s biological parents as soon as possible. It is also extremely important that prior to the adoption the child undergo all of the medical and psychological evaluations that the Department is required to provide at their expense.

Even if you are found to be ineligible for the adoption subsidy initially, you are still entitled to a review of the adoption subsidy eligibility each year. N.J.A.C. 10:121.1.3.b. If you reapply for the subsidy at a later date, you must prove that the problems that the child developed are traceable to either his or her genetic heritage or pre-adoptive experiences. N.J.A.C. 10:121.1.3.b.1. Therefore, if you are found initially ineligible for the adoption subsidy, it will be much more difficult to qualify for the adoption subsidy. The Department could take the position that the problems that were identified at a later date arose while the child was in the adoptive parent’s care and for this reason, the issues that were identified only later, are attributable to the adoptive parent, not the child’s genetic heritage or pre-adoptive experiences.

In addition, it is extremely important that a prospective adoptive parent be represented by counsel throughout this process. An attorney can ensure that before a determination is made as to subsidy eligibility, you will have the records to which you are entitled under the law, that you will not be threatened with removal of the child if you refuse to waive your right to an adoption subsidy, and that the Department appropriately evaluate the child before a determination is made as to the child’s subsidy eligibility. Furthermore, the Department will be more likely to make this process easier for you if an attorney is on your side and ready to hold the Department accountable for their actions.

Contact New Jersey Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates, P.C.

If you or someone you know has a question about whether the child he or she seeks to adopt is eligible for an adoption subsidy, then call the skilled lawyers at Lyons & Associates, at 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

[1] N.J.A.C. 10:121-1.2 provides that a child may be designated as a “special needs” child for any of the following reasons: (1) Any medical or dental condition which will require repeated or frequent hospitalization or treatment; (2) Any physical handicap, which makes or may be expected to make a child totally or partially incapacitated for education or for remunerative occupation; (3) Any substantial disfigurement, such as the loss or deformation of facial features, torso or extremities; (4) A diagnosed emotional, mental health or behavioral problem, psychiatric disorder, serious intellectual incapacity or brain damage which seriously affects the child’s ability to relate to his or her peers or authority figures, including, but not limited to, a developmental disability; (5) The child is one of a group of three or more siblings (including half-siblings) and the siblings are placed together, or the child is one of two siblings (including half-siblings) one of whom meets the special needs criteria, and it is considered most appropriate that the children be placed together; (6) The child is 10 years old or older; (7) The child is over two years of age and a member of an ethnic or minority group for whom adoptive homes are not readily available. (8) The child is over five years of age and has been living with a resource parent for at least 12 months and adoption by the resource parent is the most appropriate plan for the child. A child under five may be deemed special needs and qualify for subsidy under this subsection if he or she is a member of an ethnic or minority group for whom adoptive homes are not readily available; or (9) Any other condition of a specific child which may be approved by the DCPP Director or designee.