Agencies’ Collaboration Promotes Adoption of Foster Children with Disabilities
Florida Department of Children and Families, Agency for Persons with Disabilities
Cooperate on Achieving Permanency for Children with Developmental Challenges
MIAMI – An 11-year-old girl with developmental disabilities was adopted today by her foster parents, who have the reassurance their adoptive daughter will receive the appropriate services and support she needs as a member of their family.
Two state government agencies, one helping children in foster care and one assisting people with disabilities, came up with a solution to increase the chances that children with disabilities will be adopted.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) today are signing an agreement that formalizes their collaboration on identifying children in foster care with developmental disabilities and placing them on a priority list to receive in-home and community-based services. The goal is to help children with disabilities receive intensive Medicaid services they need when they leave foster care to become part of a permanent family through adoption, reunification with biological parents or permanent guardianship with relatives.
"This is a wonderful success story of government working to help those who need it most,” said DCF Secretary George Sheldon. “A young girl with significant challenges was adopted today because Jim DeBeaugrine, Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, opened up a special category of Medicaid funding for children in foster care -- a critical initiative no other director of that agency had ever envisioned."
"The &‘thinking outside the box’ collaboration of two state agencies is giving children in foster care with disabilities a greater chance of going home to a permanent loving family," Sheldon said.
Georgina Herbert and her son Kaydrin also were at the Juvenile Justice Courthouse today where the adoption was finalized. Georgina was able to adopt Kaydrin last year using the same Medicaid waiver provision. That waiver allowed Georgina to modify her home to accommodate Kaydrin's household needs such as bathing and getting up and down the stairs.
"Our agency is doing all it can to help children in foster care get the services they need so that they can reunite with their birth family or be adopted," APD Director Jim DeBeaugrine said. "Many families are unable to access the services they need to care for a child with a profound developmental disability, particularly children who have significant behavior problems and intense medical needs. APD is happy to work with our partners to remove this roadblock to permanent families for these children."
Enrollment in APD’s Medicaid waiver for in-home and community-based services is based on available funding. In June, 10 children in foster care were moved from the waiting list to receiving waiver services, and in the future APD plans to enroll about 10 children a month. As of August 2010, about 414 children in foster care were on the APD waiver and about 224 children were on the waiting list.
A "Champions Agreement" signed in 2008 by DCF, APD, the Department of Health, Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Juvenile Justice is facilitating interagency cooperation to improve the lives of Florida’s children. The agreement signed today supplements the original interagency agreement.
Children with medical needs, teenagers and sibling groups can be challenging to match with adoptive families. The Governor’s Explore Adoption campaign, DCF and its community partners, including Heart Galleries around the state, are working to find “forever families” for these children in foster care.
Please visit www.adoptflorida.org to meet the Florida children waiting for an adoptive family or call 1-800-96-ADOPT.