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Judge blocks DCS rate changes for now

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A federal judge in Indianapolis has temporarily blocked the Indiana Department of Child Services from reducing the amounts it pays to foster and adoptive parents and juvenile-service providers.

After an hours-long hearing Wednesday in two combined cases against the state agency, U.S. Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the District Court's Indianapolis Division granted a preliminary injunction against the DCS. This means that service providers and those adoptive and foster parents will continue getting the same money received during 2009, at least until the case progresses or the court orders differently.

Filed in December, one suit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is on behalf of the parents while the Indiana Association of Residential Child Care Agencies (IARCCA) represents the service providers. The cases - C.H., et al. v. James Payne, and IARCCA v. Indiana DCS and Payne - have been combined into one case, No. 1:09-cv-1574. Both claims involve the agency's planned reductions in payment rates for the respective parties. The suit represents more than 100 agencies statewide and has been certified as a class action as far as foster and adoptive parents throughout the state.

At issue is the rate setting by the DCS, which has scaled down any increases and frozen the rates to the service providers as the budget woes worsened for Indiana. The expected service-provider cuts range from 14 to 20 percent, while the foster and adoptive parents faced a 10 percent cut in monthly payments no matter when the placement or adoption took place.

As a result, both sides feared that the reductions would result in layoffs or fewer placement or service options for children and families who need them most. Both plaintiffs had asked the court to consider a preliminary injunction stopping the state agency from putting those into effect Jan. 1, and the judge granted those requests from the bench; a written ruling will follow.

Some people have already seen reductions in their payment, and those issues may be worked out at a later time, the parties said.

"We consider this a victory for children, and we're very glad that our concerns were heard," said Cathleen Graham, IARCCA executive director. "The children we're working with are very vulnerable and need these services, and I believe the judge saw the potential for harm with any delay in doing this. We're very satisfied with what she said about the importance of that promise of quality care that's stated in federal law. That speaks to what we as providers are very concerned about when we offer these services to children and their families."

Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, said his class of clients was also pleased about the judge's ruling as it ensures they won't be faced immediately with lower reimbursements for the services they provide. The state now has a chance to appeal the decision, but if that doesn't happen then the case can move to trial, Falk said.

In response to the ruling, DCS spokeswoman Ann Houseworth said the agency was disappointed but will abide by it while officials continue pursuing all options to provide for the best possible care. As no official written ruling has yet been issued, Houseworth said no decision had yet been made about appealing the decision.

Despite the ongoing litigation, Graham emphasized that the cases won't impact the relationship between her organization and the service providers.

"Since the filing of this suit, we've worked with DCS on so many issues and will continue doing that collaboratively," she said. "That's best way to get these children the services they need."

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  1. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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