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Firm says DCS misled parents on foster adoption subsidies

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The Indiana Department of Child Services misled parents adopting foster children by falsely claiming the agency lacked resources to provide subsidies while it returned hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, according to the Indianapolis law firm pursuing a class-action suit against DCS.

The agency “admitted they had returned nearly $240 million to the state” while representing to parents no funding was available for subsidies to adopt special-needs foster children, said Cohen & Malad LLP attorney Lynn Toops. She said DCS also admitted adoptions in the state have declined dramatically since 2009, when the state ceased providing the subsidies.

Rich Allen, assistant communications director for DCS, said in an email, “because this is pending litigation, I’m not able to comment.”

Typical subsidies are $19 a day or less per child, negotiated between DCS and parents based on income and other factors.

Toops said the firm estimates DCS owes parents denied subsidies more than $50 million. The suit was filed in June on behalf of 1,400 Hoosier families, and lead plaintiff Debra Moss of LaPorte likened DCS to deadbeat parents.

The situation is creating a hardship for parents, Toops said, and making Indiana a notable outlier in state support for children most in need.

“Indiana has in recent years been very concerned about having a good fiscal picture, having a good surplus,” she said. “By trying to save a buck and not paying these adoption subsidies, it’s actually costing money in the long run.”

The firm cites research by Notre Dame University economist Kasey Buckles showing a sharp reduction in adoptions – from roughly 30 per 100,000 children in 2008 when subsidies were being paid to about 5 per 100,000 children in 2011. Toops said the adoption rate has since declined even further.

Buckles’ research concludes that each adoption of a child from foster care saves the state $200,000 in public benefits.

Josh Kroll, adoption subsidy resource center coordinator for the North American Council on Adoptable Children, said Indiana has a dubious distinction. “It’s the only state that is saying they have insufficient funds for kids that they find eligible and is putting them on a waiting list.”

Gov. Mike Pence last month announced Indiana ended fiscal year 2014 with an operating surplus of $106 million and reserves of $2 billion.
 

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  • Still waiting
    We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

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  1. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  2. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  3. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

  4. For some strange reason this story, like many on this ezine that question the powerful, seems to have been released in two formats. Prior format here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263 That observed, I must note that it is quite refreshing that denizens of the great unwashed (like me) can be allowed to openly question powerful elitists at ICE MILLER who are on the public dole like Selby. Kudos to those at this ezine who understand that they cannot be mere lapdogs to the powerful and corrupt, lest freedom bleed out. If you wonder why the Senator resisted Selby, consider reading the comments here for a theory: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263

  5. Why is it a crisis that people want to protect their rights themselves? The courts have a huge bias against people appearing on their own behalf and these judges and lawyers will face their maker one day and answer for their actions.

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