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November 2006Vol. 7, No. 8Determinants of Adoption Subsidies

Adoption subsidy amounts vary widely by State as well as by child and adoptive family characteristics. A study recently published in Adoption Quarterly drew on data from the national Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) for 2001 to evaluate some of the characteristics associated with the variations in assistance amounts. AFCARS collects adoption and foster care data from all States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

According to the authors of "Determinants of Adoption Subsidies," 88 percent of all children adopted from foster care in 2001 received adoption assistance. However, only 13 percent of those adopted in Puerto Rico received assistance, versus 100 percent of those adopted in South Carolina; other States and the District of Columbia fell somewhere in between those percentages. The amount of the monthly subsidies also varied widely by State, from a median of $174 in Puerto Rico to $856 in Iowa. The national median was $444.

Besides State of residence, other characteristics were associated with subsidy variations:

  • Older children and African-American children were more likely to receive subsidies and to receive larger amounts.
  • Children who waited for their adoption at least 18 months after termination of parental rights tended to receive a larger amount than children adopted more quickly.
  • Children adopted by foster parents or relatives were more likely to receive subsidies than other children.
  • Children adopted by single women were more likely to receive assistance than children adopted by married couples.
  • Children adopted by African-American mothers were more likely to receive subsidies and tended to receive larger subsidies than other children.

The authors of the study suggest that many of the variations in median amounts reflect the greater need for services by certain groups, such as older children and others who have historically encountered greater barriers to adoption. Thus, the subsidies are used to reduce these barriers and to promote permanency for children.

"Determinants of Adoption Subsidies," by D. A. Gibbs, B. T. Dalberth, N. D. Berkman, and D. Weitzenkamp, was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The article was published in Volume 9(2/3) of Adoption Quarterly and is available for online purchase: