A woman who adopted three special-needs foster children said Monday the state’s failure to provided promised adoption subsidies made the Department of Child Services “basically deadbeat parents.”
Debra Moss is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed earlier this month against DCS claiming that more than 1,400 Hoosier families that adopted special-needs children from the foster care system have been denied the adoption subsidies at the same time DCS was returning hundreds of millions of dollars to the state.
The suit claims the state owes parents more than $100 million.
Moss spoke at a news conference Monday at the office of Cohen & Malad P.C., the Indianapolis law firm that filed the complaint. A LaPorte County mother who adopted three brothers, Moss said she cares for the children on her Social Security income and that the subsidy – about $18 per day per child -- would allow her to better meet the boys’ needs.
Moss said it was “heartbreaking” that DCS had returned money to state coffers since the subsidy payments stopped being made in 2009.
“How is DCS any different from the birth families they had to be taken away from” for failing to support the children, Moss questioned.
In 2009, DCS assumed responsibility for making the payments from counties that had done so previously. The department placed families on an adoption subsidy waiting list that said subsidies would be provided “if funding becomes available.” From 2009 and 2013, DCS returned more than $236 million to the state, according to the suit.
Attorneys said Indiana appears to be the only state that isn’t making payments to families as an incentive to adopt children from the foster care system. Cohen & Malad managing partner Irwin Levin said while Indiana claims a budget surplus, “they’re creating this surplus on the backs of these kids.”
At the same time, keeping children in the foster care system is costing the state more -- $25 per child or more, compared with the subsidy that’s capped at 75 percent of the state’s care costs.
Attorneys also suggested the state’s failure to pay the subsidy is a factor in the adoption rate in Indiana plunging by 35 percent since 2009.
“DCS’s broken promises to pay caretakers who agreed to adopt special needs kids puts these kids at a horrible disadvantage. The lawsuit will hold DCS accountable and require DCS to follow through with its promises to these kids and their families,” said Lynn Toops of Cohen & Malad.