Health and Family Services Cabinet
Tuition Waiver Gives Adoptive Families a Financial Boost
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2006) – Foster parents Virginia and Glenn Reynolds were sure they would never adopt, even after they fell in love with their foster child, Christina, eight years ago.
Virginia Reynolds said Christina “was definitely going to stay with us whether we adopted her or not.” As a foster child bound for college, Christina qualified for tuition assistance to Kentucky schools. But the family didn’t think that help was an option for adopted children.
“We had to do what we thought would be most beneficial for her,” Reynolds said.
The choice became clearer to the Mercer County couple, who has fostered more than 70 kids since 1986, when they learned about the adoption tuition assistance benefit, a state subsidy that pays for tuition to in-state public colleges or technical schools.
“We didn’t think we could afford to send her to college,” without the waiver, Reynolds said. “That was the only hesitation we had.” Learning that the waiver is available for adoptive children was a blessing, she said.
Now Christina, adopted in 2003, is an 18-year-old freshman studying social work at Western Kentucky University. The Reynoldses are one of many Kentucky families whose adopted children have qualified for the waiver, made possible through a law enacted in 2001 from a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Nunn, R-Glasgow.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which administers the benefit, has been promoting adoption during November, proclaimed Adoption Awareness Month by Governor Ernie Fletcher.
Cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell said the waiver changes lives.
“Not only does it give children an opportunity for further education, but it may also encourage more families to adopt,” he said.
Governor Fletcher said the tuition waiver is an important benefit to adoptive families.
“All parents want to be able to give their children every possible opportunity,” he said. “With this benefit, adoptive parents have help to make higher education a reality for their children.”
The benefit waives tuition and mandatory student fees for eligible adopted children at public postsecondary institutions, including schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Students must complete an application for financial aid, and the amount of a waiver is reduced by the amount of any aid or other assistance, excluding loans.
Applying for the assistance is simple, Reynolds said.
“Christina did it all online,” she said. “Now we know what to do when our (adopted) daughter, Ashley, prepares for college in a few years.”
Mike Grimes, manager for the cabinet’s Adoption Services Branch, said families thinking about adoption have access to several other forms of assistance, like subsidies, training and mentoring groups. Parents need to know they don’t have to go it alone once they make a commitment to adopt, he said.
"There is a whole support network for adoptive families,” he said. “Not only does the state do its part to sustain adoptive families through benefits like tuition assistance and reimbursements, but also members of the adoption community are very active and helpful to one another.”
Barbara and Glen Gollihue’s two adopted children, Becci and Darren, both 21, used the waiver. Darren attended Morehead State University for one year, and Becci went to cosmetology school for two years, receiving her certification last year. She’ll get her master’s certification next month.
“Becci’s heart is in social work,” Barbara Gollihue said. “She is thinking about going back to school part time to get some of her basic credits.”
Becci could take advantage of the waiver again. Students may be eligible for the tuition waiver for up to four years after high school graduation, or up to five years after being admitted to a college or post-secondary school.
Grimes said the tuition waiver is a boon for parents who are considering adopting teens and think they may not have time to save for college, or for families with two or more children close in age.
Donna Morton, administrator of the cabinet’s Bridges of Hope Neighborhood Place in Louisville, and her former husband have three children. Rick, 25, and John, 21, are adopted. Rick is on a break from school, and John attends Jefferson Community College and will transfer to the University of Louisville.
“The waiver was a tremendous help for us,” Morton said. Two children headed for college at the same time, coupled with her ex-husband’s recent medical problems meant the family could have faced a financial strain.
Morton said many of the families who visit her Neighborhood Place have children who may also benefit from the tuition assistance program.
“We’re often so concerned about getting children to school in the lower grades, but this waiver emphasizes the importance of giving kids an opportunity for higher education,” she said.
For more information about adoption or the tuition waiver for adopted children, log on to http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/adoptionservices.htm or call (800) 232-KIDS.
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