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.