They Never Imagined Sending their Child to Treatment When They Adopted: How Makana Leadership Academy Helps Families Access Post Adoption Funding

Things at home were tense. Screams from the other room echoed through the halls of their house. As their adopted daughter slammed her bedroom door, Aaron and Jenny just looked at each other hopeless. Memories from the first year’s post adoption with their daughter flooded their mind and brought hope back into their eyes.
They never imagined that they would be on the brink of what felt like making an impossible decision – sending their daughter out for help and finding a way to overcome the financial hurdle without breaking themselves.”

One of the first questions we’re often asked when a family is doing due diligence on Makana Leadership Academy is, “How much is this going to cost?” A mixed blend of anxiety and frustration is beneath this question as families look to find the best therapeutic fit for their child. This never comes as an easy question to answer especially considering the endless choices that a family is considering coupled with the financial pressure that they’re already under.

We’ve spent significant time really navigating various financial resources to help families in their pursuit to turn their child’s crisis into leadership. We’ve explored options that have included insurance billing and reimbursement, corporate fundraising, school district funding, non-profit donations, educational trusts, and post adoption services.

What we find is that most families and professionals aren’t aware of what resources are currently out there. Even if they are attune to some financial options there tends to be confusion and myths floating around that clouds the reliability of those proposed resources.

After working with hundreds of families that have adopted their children, we wanted to shed some light on one particular resource that every family, therapist, and consultant should consider when working clients who have adopted children and how to access it – Post Adoption Services.

Federally Funded Resource

Post adoption services is a federally funded resource that was created to provide further assistance to families of adopted children. While this resource is federally funded it is delegated by each state’s respective child and welfare agency down to a local level. Each state reserves the right to determine how much supportive funding they’ll allot families to receive on a monthly basis. Typically, child welfare agencies lean on Medicaid to cover any supportive services that are requested. 

With regards to mental and behavioral healthcare, however, many states recognize that they lack the appropriate resources to support a family and their child’s needs, and that this will ultimately lead families to pursue out-of-state options for treatment. What we’ve found by working with a variety of agencies across various states is that most are open to the idea of covering the costs of therapeutic schools and programs outside of their state because they’re invested in the families that they serve.

Let’s Break it Down by the Numbers

The agencies that we’ve directly spoken and worked with usually break their decision down to two basic elements – how effective is the therapeutic program and how long is it going to take. 

Bottom line is that it comes down to outcomes because they see a high threshold of recidivism in their caseloads and a prolonged period where families remain separated with no plan for reunification in sight. Usually their families spend roughly three years a part cycling through crisis and everchanging placements with an average associated cost of just over a hundred thousand per year per child.

It’s no wonder there’s been mounting frustration from their agency’s around the country with a growing hesitancy to spend any additional resources with those stats!

So, how do we breakthrough this to help families receive access to the resources they rightly need? 

Better Future with Better Options 

When families first call us and we discover that their child is adopted, we encourage them to call the county that they adopted their child from and get in touch with their case worker. They’ll want to request looking into post adoption services funding to help cover the costs associated with private therapeutic treatment. Their caseworker will usually ask for a case history that supports the need for the requested placement and the worker will check to see if there are any public resources that Medicaid can support in covering instead of them (its routine for them to do this, so don’t let your families get discouraged when you hear this).

This is where educational consultants and therapists’ referring recommendations become critically essential

A family can get the process moving, but it’ll take clinical advocacy to solidify the funding. Agencies want to know that the placement they’re considering funding has a high probability of bringing healing to the family and that it won’t keep their family unnecessarily a part for too long. If you can advocate through a reasonable case history and provide a sound clinical recommendation than these post adoption agencies will support funding the requested placement. 

This doesn’t mean that Post Adoption will necessarily cover the entirety of the child’s treatment. However, we’ve found that they’ll work to greatly offset the cost of treatment if they won’t cover it entirely. But every state and county are different so keep this in mind when advising clients to pursue this financial resource.

We also always encourage families to be vulnerable about the emotional and financial strain of not having the support from Post Adoption. Remember that the caseworkers at these are agencies are people and they do have hearts.

But what about Wilderness Therapy? Most wilderness therapy programs we work with are for-profit. But, as mentioned earlier, if the wilderness program has a non-profit foundation arm than they can use that to meet the requirement of Post Adoption Services from what we witnessed so far.

We hope that this resource will be useful in helping your client’s reach their aspirations. The Makana family is something we aim to further develop through collaboration. Makana literally means “gift” in Hawaiian. Paying it forward is the Makana. We are passing this “Makana” on to each of you with the clear goal that we’ll be able to help more families together. 


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Utah Department of Human Services
Utah State Board of Education
California Department of Education
Post Adoption Service
Greenwood Associates