Every family that considers adoption goes through a discernment process to explore their comfort with and capacity for caring for a child with special needs. Some families feel called to adopt a child with disabilities. If you adopt through an agency or foster care, they will typically help navigate the world of health care, adoption assistance, and social security benefits. But families that pursue an independent adoption don’t have the same advantage. Some things to remember:

  • If you are adopting a child from another State through the ICPC process, often they will be covered by Medicaid in the State he or she is born for the period they are in that State. Apply for TennCare the same day you return to Tennessee. TennCare is Tennessee’s Medicaid program, and will not pay healthcare expenses retroactively. You can apply here: www.healthcare.gov.
  • As soon as you receive your child’s birth certificate, apply for social security benefits.
  • Once your child is approved for SSI, complete the application for adoption assistance found here: https://files.dcs.tn.gov/intranet/forms/0513.doc. If treatment providers are uncertain of whether and to what extent the child’s disabilities will impact him or her, you can apply for deferred adoption assistance. This will allow you to access services for your child in the event they become necessary.

The adoption assistance agreement must be complete prior to finalization. Typically, families can navigate these applications on their own. Occasionally, a family needs an attorney to assist with applying for, or appealing the denial of, adoption assistance. The Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC can help you complete the applications, and this is often a service included for clients adopting a child with special needs.

Do not be reluctant to accept government assistance. By preventing a child from entering foster care or allowing them to exit foster care, you are saving the State and federal government significant resources. TennCare provides the best healthcare coverage in Tennessee, and your child may need it someday, even if you have private insurance and TennCare is secondary. TennCare covers healthcare services for medically fragile children and children with behavioral disorders that other healthcare providers do not offer.

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