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'Quality of care' at stake in DCS rate-cut case

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The federal judge who granted a preliminary injunction in the combined suits against the Department of Child Services for cutting reimbursement rates for adoptive and foster parents and child care agencies found the quality of care for children would suffer if the rate cuts stood.

In a 38-page order released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker detailed her reasons for granting the preliminary injunction from the bench Jan. 20 that blocked the rate cuts by DCS.

"The injuries that all categories of plaintiffs stand to suffer if an injunction is not issued are significant and the type for which there is no adequate remedy at law," she wrote. "There is much more than money at issue in the case. ... Plaintiffs are likely to suffer a variety of substantial harms due to the rate cuts."

Both the parents of adoptive and foster children and the Indiana Association of Residential Child Care Agencies sued DCS in December after learning of cuts to reimbursement rates by the DCS to those parties. The suits were combined into one case, C.H., et al. v. James Payne, No. 1:09-CV-1547. The suit represents more than 100 agencies statewide and has been certified as a class action for foster and adoptive parents throughout the state.

The issue is the rate setting done by DCS, which cut or froze rates to the service providers and parents anywhere from 14 to 20 percent for the service providers and up to 10 percent for parents. The cuts came after the state had asked DCS to cut 10 percent from its budget to send those funds back to the state.

After the state assumed responsibility for the standard per diem for rates, DCS examined the rate structure and decided to lower the reimbursements based on a United States Department of Agriculture report on actual expenditures parents made on children and a nationwide report on foster care per diem rates.

But relying on the USDA report was "questionable" because the report included all children and didn't specify information on costs of raising foster children, wrote Judge Barker. DCS also relied on the figures for the lowest income group in its calculations - numbers that are skewed by the poverty of the recipients instead of reflecting what items actually cost, she continued.

DCS also failed to use a methodology that takes into consideration the actual costs of providing items specified in federal statute such as food, school supplies, and reasonable travel expenses to visit the child's home.

"In addition, to the extent that budgetary concerns drove the decision to impose the uniform across-the-board ten percent reduction, rather than consideration of the specific factors mandated by the statute, such a procedure is in our view inappropriate under Title IV-E," wrote the judge.

DCS also failed to consult with adoptive parents in making individualized determinations of the payment amounts based on the specific needs of children being adopted.

In regards to the service providers, they too successfully proved the need for a preliminary injunction preventing the cuts. The rate setting for the providers didn't follow any specific written procedure and appeared to be "almost entirely motivated and controlled by budgetary concerns," wrote Judge Barker.

She also found persuasive the IARCCA's contention that the rate cut directive DCS instituted was in the nature of a rule and so it is subject to the statutory requirements that govern rulemaking.

"It is the quality of care promised to the children under the applicable statutes that is at stake in the case at bar," she wrote. "Any deficiency in such care cannot later be undone with monetary compensation."

The preliminary injunction restrains DCS from reducing or altering the reimbursement rate to any licensed child care placing agency or residential placement provider below the DCS rates paid on Aug. 1, 2009, and below the rates on Dec. 31, 2009, for the parents. The order also prevents DCS taking any action to circumvent the order, such as transferring a child to a less expensive placement or reclassifying a child to a less expensive rate. The injunction remains in effect until further order from the court.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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