We are talking about a program introduced this month by the Minnesota Department of Human Services: Northstar Care for Children. The department hopes that the program's streamlined processes and revamped benefits will encourage more foster parents to adopt the children in their care.
As we said in our last post, for many foster families, adoption is not financially possible. The benefits, including monthly reimbursement checks, are better for foster parents -- much better. In some cases, adoption assistance payments can be just 50 percent of what the foster care system paid.
The difference in benefits has only been compounded by the complexities of the process. Before Northstar Care, the state separated families caring for children not their own into three categories. For each category -- say, adoptive parents -- there was a separate pot of money that DHS meted out based on certain criteria. Not only were they separate budget lines, but each section used its own unique criteria to determine eligibility and need. As a result, jumping from the foster parent category to the adoptive parent category was not easy.
Those three categories have been eliminated under Northstar Care. The program lumps all those families together and grants a single monthly subsidy to children 6 years old or older. The child's age will determine the basic benefit amount; if DHS determines that the child has a special need, the state will provide supplemental monthly payments tailored to meet the child's needs.
This is a high-level summary of Northstar Care. If you have questions about your own situation, feel free to give us a call.
Source: Minneapolis StarTribune, "State increases incentives for foster parents to adopt," Chris Serres, Jan. 8, 2015