• September 2004
  • Vol. 5, No. 7

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Increasing Numbers of Children Receive Interstate Adoption Assistance

Federal and State adoption subsidy programs, commonly referred to as "adoption assistance," were established to provide cash assistance and supportive services to adoptive families of children with special needs. To reduce barriers to adoption for waiting children, Federal law encourages States to facilitate the provision of adoption assistance even when a family who wishes to adopt lives outside the child's State of residence or when an adoptive family moves out of State after the adoption. A December 2003 report by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (AAICAMA), Report on the Interstate Movement of Children Receiving Adoption Assistance, finds that increasing mobility and use of national adoption exchanges such as the AdoptUSKids website have resulted in increased numbers of children with special needs living in a State other than the State providing the adoption assistance ("the adoption assistance State").

The study, based on a survey of all States conducted in 2002, shows the majority of adopted children receiving State and Federal adoption subsidies (more than 75 percent) still reside in the State providing the adoption assistance. A relatively small percentage (9.8 percent) live in other States, while the child's State of residence could not be provided by approximately 16 percent of reporting States. Just 5 years earlier, however, the percentage of children living outside their adoption assistance State was 6.1 percent. Among the 30 States for which a comparison was possible, the numbers of children residing in a State other than the adoption assistance State grew by 70 percent during the 5-year period, from 9,878 children in 1997 to 17,098 children in 2002. Study authors suggest this increase indicates States are making progress toward breaking down geographic barriers to adoption.

Other findings include:

  • The number of children with special needs receiving State or Federal subsidies increased 71 percent (from 155,468 to 266,931) between 1997 and 2002 in the 39 States that completed surveys in both years.
  • During that time, there was an 80 percent increase in the number of children receiving Federal (Title IV-E) adoption assistance, and a 29 percent increase in the number of children receiving State-funded adoption assistance.
  • The proportion of children with special needs receiving Federal (vs. State-funded) subsidies is increasing--from 73 percent of children receiving subsidies in 1997 to 82.5 percent in 2002.
  • The majority of children living outside their adoption assistance State (59.4 percent) were initially adopted across State lines. A smaller percentage (41.1 percent) moved across State lines with their adoptive families after the adoption was finalized.

Research has shown that children with special needs and their adoptive families need support throughout the life of the adoption. As a result, this study highlights the need for States to have resources to provide adequate medical and post-adoption services for the growing numbers of children with special needs who will be crossing State lines during or subsequent to their adoptions.

The Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA) provides a formal mechanism to ensure that adoptive parents and their children receive medical benefits and other services in interstate situations. For more information about ICAMA, visit the AAICAMA website at http://aaicama.aphsa.org

This study was supported by a Children's Bureau Adoption Opportunities Grant (#90-CO-0866). The report is available at http://aaicama.org/cms/resources-docs/Interstate_Movement_Survey_2003.pdf

Related Item

Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted From Foster Care: A Factsheet for Families, available from Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_subsid.cfm), has more information about adoption assistance.

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