The Department of Child Services will fund state subsidies for children adopted from foster care for the fiscal year that began July 1. The announcement comes after a lawsuit claimed the state reneged on promises to provide the assistance to about 1,400 eligible families since 2009.
In a news release, DCS said Gov. Mike Pence confirmed in a letter to DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura that the state would fund the program.
“Although the State Adoption Subsidy is only a small piece of the assistance the State of Indiana offers to adoptive parents, it is my belief that funding the program this fiscal year is the right thing to do,” Pence said. “At the same time, the Adoption Study Committee is now looking at this issue, and we appreciate their work to develop recommendations that address the needs of Hoosier families and effectively promote adoption,” added Pence.
In recent months, parents who adopted foster children initiated a class-action suit on behalf of an estimated 1,400 Indiana families.
Attorneys claim the state owes in excess of $50 million in unpaid adoption subsidies over the past five years. DCS had vowed to pay the subsidy if funding was available, yet the agency did not provide the payments while returning hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, according to the suit. Families had been placed on a waiting list to receive subsidies when funding became available.
“We’re very proud our lawsuit caused the state to finally do the right thing,” said Lynn Toops, a partner at Cohen & Malad LLP, which represents the foster families. Wednesday’s announcement, though, “provides no relief to families who went on the waiting list and received nothing from 2009 to July 1, 2014.
DCS said in its statement that the state pays more than $92 million in adoption subsidies for more than 11,000 children through the Federal Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) and the County Adoption Subsidy (CAS). The State Adoption Subsidy wait list is for children ineligible for AAP or CAS.
DCS spokesman James B. Wide said the subsidies are expected to cost the state about $10 million and will benefit about 1,500 children.
“Governor Pence has a heart for adoptive and foster families, and we are grateful we have been able to identify resources to fund this program for families that have adopted children from our system,” Bonaventura said in the statement.
Indiana had been the only state that placed parents on a waiting list for an adoption subsidy and returned funding to the state, according to the North American Council on Adoptable Children.
Indiana Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson and Democratic member John Broden of South Bend, who advocated for restoration of the subsidy, applauded the decision.
“Senate Democrats have long pushed for Indiana to join every other state in making this incentive available to parents,” Lanane said. “As I’ve stated in the past concerning the administration’s policies – better late than never.”
“I truly believe in the maxim that a society is ultimately judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens,” Broden said. “I am hard pressed to imagine a more vulnerable class of people than abused and neglected children.”
Parents of adoptive children who have questions regarding the State Adoption Subsidy can contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 877-265-0086.