California Welfare and Institutions Code
Aid under this chapter shall be known as the Adoption Assistance Program.
It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to benefit children residing in foster homes by providing the stability and security of permanent homes, and in so doing, achieve a reduction in foster home care. It is not the intent of this chapter to increase expenditures but to provide for payments to adoptive parents to enable them to meet the needs of children who meet the criteria established in Sections 16116, 16120, and 16121.
(a) The department shall establish and administer the program to be carried out by the department or the county pursuant to this chapter. The department shall adopt any regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.
(b) The department shall keep any records necessary to evaluate the program's effectiveness in encouraging and promoting the adoption of children eligible for the Adoption Assistance Program.
(c) The department or the county responsible for providing financial aid in the amount determined in Section 16120 shall have responsibility for certifying that the child meets the eligibility criteria and for determining the amount of financial assistance needed by the child and the adopting family.
(d) The department shall actively seek and make maximum use of federal funds that may be available for the purposes of this chapter.
All gifts or grants received from private sources for the purpose of this chapter shall be used to offset public costs incurred under the program established by this chapter.
(e) For purposes of this chapter, the county responsible for determining the child's Adoption Assistance Program eligibility status and for providing financial aid in the amount determined in Sections 16120 and 16120.1 shall be the county that at the time of the adoptive placement would otherwise be responsible for making a payment pursuant to Section 11450 under the CalWORKs program or Section 11461 under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care program if the child were not adopted. When the child has been voluntarily relinquished for adoption prior to a determination of eligibility for such a payment, the responsible county shall be the county in which the relinquishing parent resides.
The responsible county for all other eligible children shall be the county where the child is physically residing prior to placement with the adoptive family. The responsible county shall certify eligibility on a form prescribed by the department.
(a) At the time application for adoption of a child who is potentially eligible for Adoption Assistance Program benefits is made, and at the time immediately prior to the finalization of the adoption decree, the department or the licensed adoption agency, whichever is appropriate, shall provide the prospective adoptive family with information, in writing, on the availability of Adoption Assistance Program benefits, with an explanation of the difference between these benefits and foster care payments. The department or the licensed adoption agency shall also provide the prospective adoptive family with information, in writing, on the availability of reimbursement for the nonrecurring expenses incurred in the adoption of the Adoption Assistance Program eligible child. The department or licensed adoption agency shall also provide the prospective adoptive family with information on the availability of mental health services through the Medi-Cal program or other programs.
(b) The department or the licensed agency shall encourage families that elect not to sign an adoption assistance agreement to sign a deferred adoption assistance agreement.
(c) The department or the county, whichever is responsible for determining the child's eligibility for the Adoption Assistance Program, shall assess the needs of the child and the circumstances of the family.
(d) (1) The amount of an adoption assistance cash benefit, if any, shall be a negotiated amount based upon the needs of the child and the circumstances of the family. There shall be no means test used to determine an adoptive family's eligibility for the Adoption Assistance Program. In those instances where an otherwise eligible child does not require a cash benefit, Medi-Cal eligibility may be established for the child, as needed.
(2) For purposes of paragraph (1), "circumstances of the family" includes the family's ability to incorporate the child into the household in relation to the lifestyle, standard of living, and future plans and to the overall capacity to meet the immediate and future plans and needs, including education, of the child.
(e) The department or the licensed adoption agency shall inform the prospective adoptive family regarding the county responsible for providing financial aid to the adoptive family in an amount determined pursuant to Sections 16120 and 16120.1.
(f) The department or the licensed adoption agency shall inform the prospective adoptive family that the adoptive parents will continue to receive benefits in the agreed upon amount unless one of the following occurs:
(1) The department determines that the adoptive parents are no longer legally responsible for the support of the child.
(2) The department determines that the child is no longer receiving support from the adoptive family.
(3) The adoption assistance payment exceeds the amount that the child would have been eligible for in a licensed foster home.
(4) The adoptive parents demonstrate a need for an increased payment.
(5) The adoptive parents voluntarily reduce or terminate payments.
(6) The adopted child has an extraordinary need that was not anticipated at the time the amount of the adoption assistance was originally negotiated.
A child shall be eligible for Adoption Assistance Program benefits if all of the conditions specified in subdivisions (a) through (g), inclusive, are met or if the conditions specified in subdivision (h) are met.
(a) The child has at least one of the following characteristics that are barriers to his or her adoption:
(1) Adoptive placement without financial assistance is unlikely because of membership in a sibling group that should remain intact or by virtue of race, ethnicity, color, language, age of three years or older, or parental background of a medical or behavioral nature that can be determined to adversely affect the development of the child.
(2) Adoptive placement without financial assistance is unlikely because the child has a mental, physical, emotional, or medical disability that has been certified by a licensed professional competent to make an assessment and operating within the scope of his or her profession. This paragraph shall also apply to children with a developmental disability as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 4512, including those determined to require out-of-home nonmedical care as described in Section 11464.
(b) The need for adoption subsidy is evidenced by an unsuccessful search for an adoptive home to take the child without financial assistance, as documented in the case file of the prospective adoptive child. The requirement for this search shall be waived when it would be against the best interest of the child because of the existence of significant emotional ties with prospective adoptive parents while in the care of these persons as a foster child.
(c) The child meets either of the following criteria:
(1) At the time a petition for an agency adoption, as defined in Section 8506 of the Family Code, or an independent adoption, as defined in Section 8524 of the Family Code, is filed, the child has met the requirements to receive federal supplemental security income benefits pursuant to Subchapter 16 (commencing with Section 1381) of Chapter 7 of Title 42 of the United States Code, as determined and documented by the federal Social Security Administration.
(2) The child is the subject of an agency adoption as defined in Section 8506 of the Family Code and was any of the following:
(A) Under the supervision of a county welfare department as the subject of a legal guardianship or juvenile court dependency.
(B) Relinquished for adoption to a licensed California private or public adoption agency, or the department, and would have otherwise been at risk of dependency as certified by the responsible public child welfare agency.
(C) Committed to the care of the department pursuant to Section 8805 or 8918 of the Family Code.
(d) The child is under 18 years of age, or under 21 years of age and has a mental or physical handicap that warrants the continuation of assistance.
(e) The adoptive family is responsible for the child pursuant to the terms of an adoptive placement agreement or a final decree of adoption and has signed an adoption assistance agreement.
(f) The adoptive family is legally responsible for the support of the child and the child is receiving support from the adoptive parent.
(g) The department or the county responsible for determining the child's Adoption Assistance Program eligibility status and for providing financial aid, and the prospective adoptive parent, prior to or at the time the adoption decree is issued by the court, have signed an adoption assistance agreement that stipulates the need for, and the amount of, Adoption Assistance Program benefits.
(h) A child shall be eligible for Adoption Assistance Program benefits if the child received Adoption Assistance Program benefits with respect to a prior adoption and the child is again available for adoption because the prior adoption was dissolved and the parental rights of the adoptive parents were terminated or because the child's adoptive parents died.
Upon the authorization of the department or, where appropriate, the county responsible for determining the child's Adoption Assistance Program eligibility status and for providing financial aid, the responsible county shall directly reimburse eligible individuals for reasonable nonrecurring expenses, as defined by the department, incurred as a result of the adoption of a child eligible for the Adoption Assistance Program. The state shall provide payment to the county for the reimbursement. Reimbursements shall conform to the eligibility criteria and claiming procedures established by the department and shall be subject to the following conditions:
(a) The amount of the payment shall be determined through agreement between the adopting parent or parents and the department or the county responsible for determining the child's Adoption Assistance Program eligibility status and for providing financial aid. The agreement shall indicate the nature and the amount of the nonrecurring expenses to be paid. Payments shall be limited to an amount not to exceed four hundred dollars ($400) for each placement eligible for the Adoption Assistance Program.
(b) There shall be no income eligibility requirement for an adoptive parent or adoptive parents in determining whether payments for nonrecurring expenses shall be made.
(c) Reimbursement for nonrecurring expenses shall be limited to costs incurred by or on behalf of an adoptive parent or adoptive parents that are not reimbursed from other sources. No payments shall be made under this section if the federal program for reimbursement of nonrecurring expenses for the adoption of children eligible for the Adoption Assistance Program pursuant to Section 673 of Title 42 of the United States Code is terminated.
(d) Reimbursement for nonrecurring expenses shall be in addition to any adoption expenses paid pursuant to Section 16121 and shall not be included in the computation of maximum benefits for which the adoptive family is eligible pursuant to Section 16121.
The adoption assistance agreement shall, at a minimum, specify the amount and duration of assistance. The date for reassessment of the child's needs shall be set at the time of the initial negotiation of the adoption assistance agreement, and shall, thereafter be set at each subsequent reassessment. The interval between any reassessments may not exceed two years.
The adoption assistance agreement shall also specify the responsibility of the adopting family for reporting changes in circumstances that might negatively affect their ability to provide for the identified needs of the child.
(a) In accordance with the adoption assistance agreement, the adoptive family shall be paid an amount of aid based on the child' s needs otherwise covered in AFDC-FC payments and the circumstance of the adopting parents but that shall not exceed the foster care maintenance payment that would have been paid based on the age related state-approved foster family home care rate, and any applicable specialized care increment, for a child placed in a licensed or approved family home pursuant to subdivisions (a) to (d), inclusive, of Section 11461.
(b) Payment may be made on behalf of an otherwise eligible child in a state-approved group home or residential care treatment facility if the department or county responsible for determining payment has confirmed that the placement is necessary for the temporary resolution of mental or emotional problems related to a condition that existed prior to the adoptive placement. Out-of-home placements shall be in accordance with the applicable provisions of Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 1500) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code and other applicable statutes and regulations governing eligibility for AFDC-FC payments for placements in in-state and out-of-state facilities. The designation of the placement facility shall be made after consultation with the family by the department or county welfare agency responsible for determining the Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) eligibility and authorizing financial aid. Group home or residential placement shall only be made as part of a plan for return of the child to the adoptive family, that shall actively participate in the plan. Adoption Assistance Program benefits shall not be authorized for payment of an eligible child's group home or residential treatment facility placement that exceeds an 18-month cumulative period of time for a specific episode or condition justifying that placement.
(c) (1) Payments on behalf of a child who is a recipient of AAP benefits who is also a consumer of regional center services shall be based on the rates established by the State Department of Social Services pursuant to Section 11464 and subject to the process described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 16119.
(2) (A) Except as provided for in subparagraph (B), this subdivision shall apply to adoption assistance agreements signed on or after July 1, 2007.
(B) Rates paid on behalf of regional center consumers who are recipients of AAP benefits and for whom an adoption assistance agreement was executed before July 1, 2007, shall remain in effect, and may only be changed in accordance with Section 16119.
(i) If the rates paid pursuant to adoption assistance agreements executed before July 1, 2007, are lower than the rates specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) or paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 11464, respectively, those rates shall be increased, as appropriate and in accordance Section 16119, to the amount set forth in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) or paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 11464, effective July 1, 2007. Once set, the rates shall remain in effect and may only be changed in accordance with Section 16119.
(ii) For purposes of this clause, for a child who is a recipient of AAP benefits or for whom the execution of an AAP agreement is pending, and who has been deemed eligible for or has sought an eligibility determination for regional center services pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 4512, and for whom a determination of eligibility for those regional center services has been made, and for whom, prior to July 1, 2007, a maximum rate determination has been requested and is pending, the rate shall be determined through an individualized assessment and pursuant to subparagraph (C) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 35333 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations as in effect on January 1, 2007, or the rate established in subdivision (b) of Section 11464, whichever is greater. Once the rate has been set, it shall remain in effect and may only be changed in accordance with Section 16119. Other than the circumstances described in this clause, regional centers shall not make maximum rate benefit determinations for the AAP.
(3) Regional centers shall separately purchase or secure the services contained in the child's IFSP or IPP, pursuant to Section 4684.
(4) Regulations adopted by the department pursuant to this subdivision shall be adopted as emergency regulations in accordance with Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 or the Government Code, and for the purposes of that chapter, including Section 11349.6 of the Government Code, the adoption of these regulations is an emergency and shall be considered by the Office of Administrative Law as necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety, and general welfare. The regulations authorized by this paragraph shall remain in effect for no more than 180 days, by which time final regulations shall be adopted.
(d) (1) In the event that a family signs an adoption assistance agreement where a cash benefit is not awarded, the adopting family shall be otherwise eligible to receive Medi-Cal benefits for the child if it is determined that the benefits are needed pursuant to this chapter.
(2) Regional centers shall separately purchase or secure the services that are contained in the child's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individual Program Plan (IPP) pursuant to Section 4684.
(e) Subdivisions (a), (b), and (d) shall apply only to adoption assistance agreements signed on or after October 1, 1992.
(f) This section shall supersede the requirements of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (1) of Section 35333 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the amount of aid to be paid to an adoptive family for any adoption assistance agreement executed prior to October 1, 1992, or the foster care maintenance payment based on the age-related, state-approved foster family home care rate and any applicable specialized care increment that would have been paid to an adoptive family for an adoption assistance agreement executed prior to January 1, 2008, shall not be adjusted pursuant to the rate increase specified in subparagraph (C) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 11461 in any subsequent reassessment on or after January 1, 2008.
Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 11105, the residence of the adoptive parents at the time of or subsequent to adoptive placement shall not terminate the eligibility of a child who is otherwise eligible for adoptive assistance payments.
The Director of Social Services and the Director of Health Services may enter into interstate agreements pursuant to Chapter 2.6 (commencing with Section 16170) that provide for medical and other necessary services for special needs children, establish procedures for interstate delivery of adoption assistance and related services and benefits, and provide for the adoption of related regulations.
(a) The department may recover any overpayments of financial assistance under the Adoption Assistance Program, and shall develop regulations that establish the means to recoup them, including an appropriate notice of action and appeal rights, when the department determines either of the following applies:
(1) The adoptive parents are no longer legally responsible for the support of the child.
(2) The child is no longer receiving support from the adoptive family.
(3) The adoptive family has committed fraud in its application for, or reassessment of, the adoption assistance.
(b) Children on whose behalf an adoption assistance agreement had been executed prior to October 1, 1992, shall continue to receive adoption assistance in accordance with the terms of that agreement.
(c) Payment shall begin on or after the effective date of an adoption assistance agreement, or a deferred adoption assistance agreement, or a final decree of adoption, provided that the adoption assistance agreement has been signed by all required parties prior to or at the time the adoption decree is issued by the court.
(d) Children on whose behalf an aid for adoption of children agreement had been executed prior to October 1, 1982, shall continue to receive aid for adoption of children benefits in accordance with the terms of that agreement. This aid for adoption of children agreement may be renewed, provided that total benefits do not exceed five years. Prior to the end of the five-year period, if there is a continuing need related to a chronic health condition of the child that necessitated the initial financial assistance, the time period for which it may be given shall be determined by the department or the agency, but shall not extend past the time that the child reaches 18 years of age. Prior to the expiration of the extension period, if there is a continuing need, a parent may petition the department or the designated licensed adoption agency for a new period of termination. The department or the agency shall make its determination regarding the financial ability of the parents to meet the continuing medical needs of the child's health condition at the time of adoption, taking into consideration community resources.
(a) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to provide children who would otherwise remain in long-term foster care with permanent adoptive homes. It is also the intent of this Legislature to encourage private adoption agencies to continue placing these children, and in so doing, to achieve a substantial savings to the state in foster care costs.
(b) From any funds appropriated for this purpose, the state shall compensate private adoption agencies licensed pursuant to Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 1500) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code for costs of placing for adoption children eligible for Adoption Assistance Program benefits pursuant to Section 16120.
These agencies shall be compensated for otherwise unreimbursed costs for the placement of these children in an amount not to exceed a total of three thousand five hundred dollars ($3,500) per child adopted. Half of the compensation shall be paid at the time the adoptive placement agreement is signed. The remainder shall be paid at the time the adoption petition is granted by the court. Requests for compensation shall conform to claims procedures established by the department. This section shall not be construed to authorize reimbursement to private agencies for intercountry adoption services.
(c) Effective July 1, 1999, the maximum amount of reimbursement pursuant to subdivision (b) shall be five thousand dollars ($5,000).
(d) Effective February 1, 2008, the maximum amount of reimbursement pursuant to subdivision (b) shall be ten thousand dollars ($10,000). This rate increase shall apply only to those cases for which the adoptive home study approval occurred on or after July 1, 2007.
(e) Commencing with the budget subcommittee hearings for the 2008 -09 fiscal year, the State Department of Social Services shall review the reimbursement methodology for the program and annually provide information to the fiscal committees of the Legislature on all of the following:
(1) The costs and savings, to the extent that these can be assessed, associated with increasing the reimbursement rate.
(2) Outcome data, including the increased number of adoptive placements and finalized adoptions, and how these outcomes compare to prior years.
(3) The progress toward earning federal adoption incentives.
(4) The number of new agencies participating in the placement of children pursuant to this section.
The provisions of Section 16120, permitting the payment of adoption assistance until a child attains the age of 18 or 21 if the child has mental or physical handicaps, shall be effective as long as federal funds are available under Title IV-E of the federal Social Security Act (Part E (commencing with Section 670) of Subchapter 4 of Chapter 7 of Title 42 of the United States Code). When those funds cease to be available the maximum length for payment of the Adoption Assistance Program shall be five years except in instances in which there is a continuing need, related to a chronic health condition of the child which necessitated the initial financial assistance. In those cases, a parent may, until October 1, 1992, petition the department or licensed adoption agency to continue financial assistance up to age of majority. On and after October 1, 1992, the parent may petition the department or the responsible county to continue financial assistance up to the age of majority.
(a) (1) Upon the appropriation of funds by the Legislature for the purposes set forth in this section, the State Department of Social Services shall establish a project in four counties and one state district office of the department to provide preadoption and postadoption services to ensure the successful adoption of children and youth who have been in foster care 18 months or more, are at least nine years of age, and are placed in an unrelated foster home or in a group home.
(2) The participating entities shall include the following:
(A) City and County of San Francisco.
(B) County of Los Angeles.
(C) Two additional counties and one state district office, based on criteria developed by the department in consultation with the County Welfare Directors Association, which shall demonstrate geographic diversity.
(3) A county that elects to apply for funding pursuant to this section shall submit an application to the department no later than a date determined by the department to ensure timely allocation of funds. The department shall review the applications received, and select the eligible counties in accordance with this section.
(b) Each entity identified pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) shall receive funding to provide preadoption and postadoption services to the adoptive parents and the targeted population identified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a).
(1) Preadoption and postadoption services for the child and each family may include, but shall not be limited to, all of the following:
(A) Individualized or other recruitment efforts.
(B) Postadoption services, including respite care.
(C) Behavioral health services.
(D) Peer support groups.
(E) Information and referral services.
(F) Other locally designed services, as appropriate.
(G) Relative search efforts.
(H) Training of adoptive parents, foster youth, or mentoring families.
(I) Mediation services.
(J) Facilitation of siblings in the same placement.
(K) Facilitation of postadoption contact.
(L) Engaging youth in permanency decisionmaking.
(M) Any service or support necessary to resolve any identified barrier to adoption.
(2) The services specified in paragraph (1) may be provided directly by the county, contracted for by the county, or provided through reimbursement to the family, as approved by the county.
(c) The amount of funding provided in the appropriation of funds provided by the annual Budget Act to each county participating in the project shall be allocated as follows:
(1) Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars ($750,000) to the City and County of San Francisco.
(2) One million two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($1,250,000) to the County of Los Angeles.
(3) A total of two million dollars ($2,000,000), to be awarded to the two additional counties and the district office selected pursuant to subparagraph (C) of paragraph (3) of subdivision (a), minus any funds subtracted by the department for the purpose of administering the project. The amount of funds provided to the department for administration of the project, including the costs of collecting and analyzing data pursuant to subdivision (h) and developing the information pursuant to subdivision (i), shall not exceed three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000).
(4) If the appropriated amount in the annual Budget Act differs from the total amount specified above, then the funds shall be distributed in the same proportion as the amounts listed in paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive.
(d) Funds shall be allocated to the counties pursuant to subdivision (c) no later than January 1 of each year, and shall remain available for expenditure for three years.
(e) (1) The department shall seek approval for any federal matching funds that may be available to supplement the project.
(2) The implementation of the project shall not be dependent upon the receipt of federal funding.
(3) Project funds shall supplement, and not supplant, existing federal, state, and local funds, and shall be used only in accordance with the terms and conditions of the project.
(4) No expenditure made for services specified in subdivision (b) may be made to the extent that it renders the family ineligible for federal adoption assistance.
(f) The project shall be implemented only upon the adoption of a resolution adopted by each county board of supervisors.
(g) The department shall work with the counties to develop the requirements for the project, including the number of families that may participate in the project, given the available resources, and guidelines for data collection, as required by subdivision (h).
(h) (1) The department shall work with the participating county and the state district office to analyze the effects of the project.
(2) Measures assessed by the state and counties shall include, but shall not be limited to, the following:
(A) The extent to which the adoptions of the targeted population identified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) increased as a result of the project.
(B) The number of families and children served by the project.
(C) The type and amount of preadoption and postadoption services that were provided to children and families under the project.
(i) The department shall provide information to the Legislature on the results of the project by November 30, 2010.
(j) Adoption programs in the project counties shall be encouraged to create public-private partnerships with private adoption agencies to maximize their success in improving permanent outcomes for older foster youth.