Q: Is there an incentive to adopt children out of foster care?
A: The state and the federal government both provide incentives for the adoption of children in foster care. There is both a tax credit and a potential subsidy available.
The tax credit: For parents who adopted children in 2011, there is a refundable tax credit of $13,170. This means that a family with a tax liability of only $10,000 will receive a refund of $3,170 on their 2011 taxes. Families with a modified adjusted gross income of more than $185,210 may not get the full amount of the adoption credit and the credit is totally phased out if that income is more than $225,210.
For people who adopt in 2012, there is a nonrefundable tax credit of $12,650. There will not be a refund for families with less than $12,650 of tax liability, but families can carry forward a credit for five more years until they use up the credit or the five years run out.
Chapter 409 of the Florida Statute outlines the adoption subsidies in Florida, available to families who adopt foster children. Of course, families who are a good match and willing to adopt without a subsidy are preferable, unless it can be shown that such placement is not in the best interest of the child. Florida Statute 409.166 says that "the Legislature intends to make adoption assistance, including financial aid, available to prospective adoptive parents to enable them to adopt a child in the state's foster care system who, because of his or her needs, has proven difficult to place in an adoptive home."
Q: Who are these difficult-to-place children?
A: According to state law, a child who is not likely to be adopted because he or she is: 8 years of age or older; developmentally disabled; physically or emotionally handicapped; of black or racially mixed parentage; or is a member of a sibling group of any age, provided two or more members of a sibling group remain together for purposes of adoption.
To ensure that no child is denied adoption due to a lack of funding by the adoptive parents, a maintenance subsidy may be negotiated, to be paid on a monthly basis until the child's 18th birthday. The amount may be adjusted based on changes in the needs of the child or circumstances of the adoptive parents. However, in no case shall the amount of the monthly payment exceed the foster care maintenance payment
that would have been paid during the same period if the child had been in a foster family home.
When a child is adopted with pre-existing medical or therapeutic needs and the family insurance does not cover the services needed, a medical subsidy may be available until the child's 18th birthday.
Children adopted from foster care are Medicaid eligible until they are 18. If the child is adopted at age 16 or 17 and participates in a program called Road to Independence, the child will be eligible for Florida Medicaid until age 21. These same children are eligible for a college tuition waiver if they attend a state school.
Adoptive parents may be reimbursed for adoption fees and nonrecurring expenses such as attorney's fees, court costs, birth certificate fees, travel expenses, etc., up to $1,000.
Q: Who makes the final determination of a child's subsidy eligibility?
A: The Community Based Care adoption specialist determines the adoptive child's subsidy. In Manatee County that would be the adoption specialist at the Safe Children Coalition.
If you are interested in adopting a child from foster care, more information can be found at www.adoptflorida.com or www.heartgallerysarasota.org or by calling 1.866.661.5656.
Pam Hindman, director of the Guardian ad Litem program for the 12th Judicial Circuit, writes this weekly column for the Herald. Readers who have questions for "ASK the GAL" about child abuse, foster care, child protection, adoption, or who might be interested in learning more how to become a GAL volunteer can e-mail Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to her at Guardian ad Litem Program, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Hensley Wing, Suite 330, Bradenton 34205.