Information for Prospective Adoptive Parents in DCS Cases

Negotiating an adoption subsidy.

Generally my fees are paid by the Department of Children’s Services as part of your adoption subsidy, if the child being adopted is a special needs child.

When you adopt a special needs child you are eligible for subsidies to be negotiated between you and the Department of Children’s Services.  The subsidy negotiations should be completed and an agreement should be signed prior to finalization of your adoption. See Adoption Subsidy Negotiations page for assistance.

Subsidies are available to cover continued treatment of any medical, psychological or dental problem that the child had at the time the child was placed for adoption.  Continued TennCare coverage can be provided and sometimes the State can cover needs not covered by TennCare.  It is important that your subsidy agreement carefully list each problem your child has, any history that places your child at risk like, abuse, genetic risks, prenatal exposure and the future needs might reasonably be expected.  One time expenses to prepare your home for the child’s special needs can also be covered.  A common example of this is the cost of building ramps for a child that uses a wheel chair.

Coverage for some of this treatment may also be available from private insurance or from public school special education.  However, it is best to be as inclusive as possible at the time the subsidy agreement is originally drafted because private insurance and special education services may change prior to your child becoming an adult.

Finally, the Department can agree to provide a monthly stipend to you to decrease the financial impact of the adoption on your family.  The maximum amount of the stipend is just under the foster care board payment.  Attorney’s fees and court costs are routinely included in subsidy agreements as well.

Most families negotiate their adoption assistance without assistance of counsel.  However, if you would like me to review your adoption assistance agreement before you sign it or advise you regarding negotiations, I would be happy to be of assistance.  In any event, I’d like to have a copy of the signed adoption assistance agreement for my file.  Your contracts with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services renews annually, so you should expect periodic reviews.

It is sometimes rumored that Tennessee will cut their adoption subsidy program and that people who have already adopted could have the benefits originally promised reduced or cut off.  Tennessee over time has imposed restrictions and the program could end if the federal funding for the program terminated.  Likewise, TN Care, an important part of the adoption assistance plan is constantly changing.  While it is likely that you will have the benefits in your adoption assistance contract throughout your child’s minority, understand that no set amount is guaranteed.

The attorney’s fee to be paid by the Department of Children’s Services includes obtaining initial information from you, preparing and filing your Petition for Adoption, preparing your Final Decree and your final hearing.  It assumes that the birth parents rights have been effectively terminated by the Department and that the court accepts the action DCS took to terminate the birth parents rights.  It further assumes that all other matters will proceed in a routine manner and that you will not need assistance in adoption subsidy matters.

I will also generally donate an additional hour of my time to all foster parent clients who want me to help with other adoption related matters.


Tennessee A.G. Opinion 14-057:  Role of DCS in the Selection of an Attorney Under Adoption Assistance Program

Special or Extraordinary Rate Request



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