The Costs That Come With Special Needs Adoption

Consider the following when you think about what type of adoption you want.

Maya Brown-Zimmerman July 25, 2017
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Is adopting a child with special needs right for you? One factor that families take into consideration are the costs. Whether you’re specifically hoping to adopt a child with extra needs, or merely open to whatever child comes to your family, it’s a good idea to be prepared for what may come in the future.

Some agencies may decrease the price of the adoption fee for children with more severe/hard-to-place needs. Others do not. This is a good question to ask your agency ahead of time if you are open to a wide variety of needs.

Once your child is home, there are a variety of therapies, products, and surgeries he or she may need. Now is a good time to check your insurance policy about coverage for things that may be necessary.

For example, does your insurance policy cover feeding? Ours will cover special formula if a g-tube is necessary (and they will cover the g-tube equipment). Since my daughter doesn’t need tube feeding, they won’t cover her allergy formula ($40 a can). They wouldn’t cover any of my son’s supplements for him to gain weight, either, or his thickener to prevent aspiration.

What therapies does your insurance cover, and how do they group them? Do they give you a certain number of visits for speech, physical, and occupational therapy combined a year, or do they separate them? Is there the option for increasing visits with a letter of medical necessity, or is it a hard limit?

Does your insurance cover alternative therapies that you might want to pursue, like chiropractic care, acupuncture, or therapeutic camps?

Do you have a co-pay for all appointments? Or do you have a deductible, and then once that is met, everything is covered? For our family, where we have multiple people with disabilities, we’ve found that it makes more sense for us to have a plan with a high deductible. We meet that quickly and then don’t have to cover other expenses for the rest of the year. Your mileage may vary depending on your family’s needs. Right now there are no lifetime maximums, but watch the new healthcare policy because that could change and then a few major surgeries could max out your child for life.

You also want to consider incidentals that definitely won’t be covered by insurance. For example, a lot of sensory therapeutic equipment isn’t covered by insurance. Even small things like chewies add up.

Parenting kids with special needs can get expensive, but by being resourceful you’ll be able to make it as cost-effective as possible.

Now that we’ve looked at various potentials for cost, how can those be addressed?

Depending on your income, your child may qualify for SSI. This will give you a monthly stipend to go towards your child’s needs. It is often dependent on your income and assets, not just the child’s diagnosis (it may not be income dependent if adopting from foster care: consult your case worker).

You child may be able to qualify for a Medicaid waiver (and if your child was adopted from foster care, they automatically qualify for Medicaid until 18). Your agency or lawyer may be able to help you with this, or you can talk to your early intervention program, or county Board of Developmental Disabilities Services office. Early intervention and the county Board of DD Services can also talk to you about programs specific to them that you may qualify for.

If your child has a medical need, they may qualify for BCMH (Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps). It’s not called BCMH in every state though, and it’s separate from CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). It’s a secondary insurance to cover specific medical needs and may not be called BCMH in every state. Parents’ income does come into play but the requirements are not nearly as stringent as they are for Medicaid and SSI/SSDI. BCMH can be used to cover your responsibility after insurance, or things that your insurance won’t cover at all, like a specific medication.

Your state may have other programs too. In Ohio, we have PASSS funds: Post-Adoption Special Services Subsidy. This is a yearly fund to help cover costs for therapies that are a financial hardship to families, for some adopted children. You may also find local nonprofits that will help with small grants for specific items, say an iPad or a special summer camp.

Finally, connect with other families whose children have similar needs. They’ll know how to find the cheapest therapy groups, used items, etc.

Parenting kids with special needs can get expensive, but by being resourceful you’ll be able to make it as cost-effective as possible. And of course, you can’t put a price on your kids! I’m parenting multiple kids with extra needs and they are the lights of my life.

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Maya Brown-Zimmerman

Maya Brown-Zimmerman is a mother of three, both biologically and through adoption. She has been blogging since before it was cool, and is passionate about everything from open and ethical adoption to special needs advocacy and patient-physician communication. In her spare time (ha!) she's on the board of directors for a medical nonprofit and enjoys medical and crime dramas. You can read more from her on her blog, Musings of a Marfan Mom.


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