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In Good Conscience: We Can’t Depend on Adoptive Parents to Turn in Their Subsidy Money

June 22, 2017

Foster Care & Adoption, HSVS, In The Media, Thought Leadership

Under state law, adoptive parents have the opportunity to apply for and receive support called an “adoption subsidy.” The subsidy is a monthly payment adoptive parents receive until the child turns 21 for basic necessities, like food, clothing, housing and medical expenses.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that raising a child requires an investment of $233,610 or approximately $14,000/year. We know that raising children is an emotionally, mentally and financially consuming responsibility. The subsidy is designed to help families, especially in New York, where the cost of living continues to skyrocket.

The monthly subsidy rate in the New York Metro area is approximately $497 for children ages 0-5, $586 for children ages 6-11, and $678 for those 12 and older. The subsidy continues until the child is 21 unless the child is no longer in the care of the adoptive parent. However, under current New York State law, it is up to the adoptive parent to return the subsidy if they surrender rights to the child or the child has moved out.

Senator Tony Avella, alongside co-sponsors Senator Jesse Hamilton and Senator Diane Savino, introduced S6518/A8313, which proposes subsidies be terminated when the adoptive parent is no longer legally responsible for the child. Adoptive parents will recertify to remain eligible. The subsidy may also be transferred to the current guardian or to the foster youth directly.

Under the current law, we are not only presuming that adoptive parents, in good conscience, will return their subsidy to the state or an agency, but we are recklessly endangering the wellbeing of our youth in care. While an adoptive parent receives a subsidy they’re no longer entitled to, a young man or woman facing homelessness could’ve used that money for rent. Something is very wrong here.

Just like any kind of fraud in social services, I understand that such abuses are not the norm. I am privileged to know and rely upon the support of qualified, compassionate foster and adoptive parents, who would never dream of doing such things. They offer their time, resources and love because more than anything they want to be parents – on good days and bad.

I commend Senators Avella, Hamilton and Savino for bringing this bill to the floor and I urge our legislators to vote it into law. We must take every precaution, so that the subsidy will reach its intended beneficiaries. We cannot rely on the whim of good consciences to provide essential services to our most vulnerable children.

Dawn Saffayeh is Executive Director of HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, helping over 6,000 New York children, adults and families to overcome the challenges of family crises, addiction, mental illness and poverty.