Abby Davis and her 11 and 13 year old adopted daughters have lived together in Westbrook, Maine as a “forever family” for 3 years.
A week and a half ago she received a letter from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services explaining that proposed budget cuts would result in a substantial cut in subsidy that Davis’ household—and those of families who have adopted children within Maine’s foster care system—receive to offset the extra costs that come with raising adopted children. The cut would take place from April to June.
According to WCSH:
The state pays families who adopt children with histories of trauma, abuse, neglect and other issues an average of $26 a day to help offset the added costs that go along with having children with those special needs. Under the curtailment order, that subsidy would go down to $13 a day between April and June. The Department of Health and Human Services has asked for additional funds in the next biennium to ensure that families receive their full subsidy going forward.
Today Davis is heading to Augusta to deliver testimony at an Emergency Budget hearing. I talked with her last night to find out more about her situation.
You are heading to Augusta to talk a bit about your family and curtailment cuts. What is going on?
I am going to go to the Statehouse and testify at the Emergency Budget Hearings that are behind held in Augusta. The Department of Health and Human Services sent out a letter about a week and a half ago saying that they were going to cut the adoption subsidies in half for adoptive parents in Maine from April to June, so I am going up tomorrow to testify at the budget hearing about why this is a bad idea.
Can you talk a bit about your family, and the significance of this curtailment cut?
When I adopted the girls, I signed a contract with the State of Maine that declared that I would have the subsidy until they turn 18. The reason that I get the subsidy is because my girls, and kids in similar situations, have been through incredible trauma in their life. They have emotional, physical, mental disabilities that puts them at higher risk in life for continuing the circle of poverty, really. The state gives subsidies to parents like myself to help the cost of raising children from these situations. We use these funds for things like specialized therapies, things like yoga. My youngest takes dance lessons to learn how to quiet the anxiety she lived with for the first six years of her life, which knocked everything out of control for her. I know foster and adoptive parents use their subsidies for things like weighted blankets for kids with sensory disorders who simply cannot manage their emotions and weighted blankets help keep them grounded. These subsidies are really put into place for families like mine to give these kids as normal a life as possible.
What was the rationale that DHHS gave for the cut?
They were handed a $35 million dollar budget cut from Governor LePage. From everything I have read, [cuts to families like mine were] the last place that they were able to make cuts. They will take place from April to June, and while they understand that this is hardship, this is what they say they have to do.
You are in an interesting situation, as it is not like parents in your situation possess the same kind of negotiating chip with the State a business or corporation might have.
Right. We’re obviously not going to give our children back because the subsidies have been cut. When we make these agreements, we make life-long agreements. We are what DHHS calls “Forever Families,” and we are in this for the long-haul. DHHS knows that with these cuts, we’re not going to hand our kids over, so I am going to go to Augusta and testify.
It is not like one becomes an adoptive parent to get rich.
Right, these subsidies aren’t there to help anyone make money. When these subsidies are taken away from us, the chance for these kids to have normal lives is challenged. We are lucky that MaineCare insurance continues, and the majority of their medications and doctors visits continue to be covered. It is the extra stuff, though, that these kids need. My youngest needs glasses, but we get one pair a year and when you have a kid who is overly anxious all of the time, and has severe ADHD symptoms and it extremely forgetful, that one pair can last three months before they are lost. That’s what these monies are ultimately for.
You are recently on WCSH 6 talking about this issue. Have you received any feedback from that appearance?
I actually have received some emails from potential adoptive parents. I received one in particular from an old college friend who confided that these cuts are really making her second-guess that decision because even though they are supposed to be scaled back at the end of June, she is nervous that if they are going to do it once, the State of Maine could then do it again. It is a real concern to us that if they can do this now, what is going to stop them from doing it again down the road to build the budget back up?