Monday, July 21, 2008

Adoption Assistance Subsidy--A New Form of Welfare?

When the Adoption and Safe Families Act was passed in 1997 one of the most important issues it was designed to address was to make it possible for families to adopt special needs children who may not have been able without additional financial support to help cover the special needs of the child. The Special Needs Adoption Assistance or financial subsidy was designed to help families that would be a great home afford to parent children with extraordinary needs.

When we pursued adoption we didn't even know about Adoption Assistance Subsidies and if we had heard about this during our training or home study we likely didn't pay much attention thinking we wouldn't ever qualify. As with other money given for social needs we wouldn't have thought we would be given money to take care of our own children. To us it seemed logical that a family would need to qualify for assistance like most other welfare programs...

In fact, we were surprised when the kids case worker told us to complete some paperwork for the Adoption Assistance Subsidy and told the case worker we wouldn't qualify. He urged us to complete the paperwork anyway and let us know that qualification was about our children's needs and not our own personal financial stability. We went ahead and applied and on one hand are very thankful we did so, as the Needs Makala has have been far more extraordinary then her profile and history would have ever led someone to believe. I can say with full confidence that every penny of Makala's Adoption Assistance has been used directly to meet her needs!

What bothers me the most however, about the whole Adoption Assistance program is that in so many cases it reminds me of the old days when Welfare mother's would have another baby to get a pay raise! When my older children were little before Welfare reforms I personally knew several single mothers who actually had more babies so they could recieve increased and extended benefits.

Sadly, I feel that in some cases there have been similar abuses of the Adoption Assistance Subsidies. The media has reported a number of stories of Adoptive Parents collecting more and more children in order to gain financial support. In some of the most horrific cases the adoptive parents have been neglectful or abusive. In some cases children have been very hurt or even died as a result of them being not much more than a pay raise.

As much as the Adoption Assistance has made a difference in our **FEELINGS** about all the extra costs associated with parenting a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders -- FASD and Reactive Attachment Disorder -- RAD along with all the added social issues I believe WE Should Not have qualified to be paid to provide for our children. With the Income and standard of living my husband and I have there should be no reason we would qualify for Welfare.

When Makala was placed as a Foster Placement she was attending Head Start and was eligible to continue once placed with us UNTIL the adoption was final and then we would need to qualify. Since we would Not have ever qualified for Head Start we chose to put her in a private pre-school program and pay tuition. I personally believe that the states should provide the supports needed for the children but, not by issuing a check to the parents.

I also believe that Adoption Assistance has given the States the ability to Claim that they have provided services for special needs children by issuing the checks. The funny part of this for example is that even with the subsidy funds sometimes the issue being covered can't be found to pay for.

Take Respite Care for example. We recieve subsidy funds based on the need to have some qualified respite providers. I would much rather have the Services Provided then the money to pay for them--since so far finding someone certified and qualified to actually pay for respite has been impossible.

The State has the ability to claim that they have provided for Respite Care because they give us some extra Adoption Assistance. This means the State can claim they provide respite by giving us the money. The fact is that we would never have a claim with the state to say they promised this service but didn't deliver it because according to their records they have!

I hope that when the current funding policies for Adoption Assistance run out in 2010 that some serious consideration is made on the Federal Level. I believe that Adoption Assistance is an important issue and that in many cases if it makes a difference in a family being able to adopt one or two children then by all means these families should recieve the support.

But, I also feel that the adoption assistance subsidies should require a higher level of accountability and that families who do recieve them should prove the funds have been used specifically for the reasons that they are being issued. In our case, for example the amount we recieve for Respite should be proven to have been used for Respite...

I also believe that the adoption assistance should not be allowed to be considered Income when completing a mortgage application or other income qualifying need. I find it disgusting that I personally know people who managed to purchase a house they could NEVER afford based on the fact they have adopted special needs children and get the check from Adoption Assistance. These funds should NOT be used to purchase a larger home. Some might argue that the larger home is needed to accommodate the child.

I think that there might be a way to demonstrate that a home with an additional bedroom might be needed in some cases. For example if we had two daughters and they were sharing a bedroom the issues Makala has might require us to purchase a larger home in order to protect the other daughter from her. In a case like that I might agree that assistance could be used to finance a home... But, for some of the people I know the subsidy has been used to finance homes that are just all about status or to pay for certain makes of cars or fantastic vacations the average family can't even take.

I don't usually judge but, often get sick to my stomach when I see with my own eyes an adoptive family add more children because the house payment increases or they want to purchase a new car with a certain emblem on the back of it. I find it disgusting when it is clear that more children equal another check and that check is needed to maintain a certain lifestyle of the parents.

But, what gulls me the most are those who do this and then make it look like it's about wanting to parent special children or claim it is inspired by God. The truth of the matter is that for some people a pay raise happens with the small intrusion of the Home Study process and the availability of a child who needs adoptive parents. Of course, some of these children-collectors would Never show their cards or let anyone know that in the end it was the money that motivated them after all how could anyone judge the hearts of people led by God to provide a family for a special child?

I am just thankful to my God that I will never have to look into the eyes of my child and see them as the ability to have the standard of living that we provide for them.

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