Certain provisions in Ohio's Title IV-E Adoption Assistance rules are in conflict with federal law as interpreted by the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual. The Child Welfare Policy Manual conveys "mandatory policies that have their basis in Federal law and/or program regulations. It also provides interpretations of Federal statutes and program regulations initiated by inquiries from State Child Welfare agencies or ACF Regional Offices."
Unfortunately, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services under the Taft Administration never communicated to county agencies, ODJFS hearing officers and ODJFS Legal Services staff that
applicable provisions in the Child Welfare Policy Manual supersede any contrary, inconsistent or incompatible provisions in the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC). As a result, eligible special needs children have been denied federal Title IV-E adoption assistance because county agencies and hearing officers have been trained to rely exclusively on state rules.
Ultimately, a systematic review and correction of errant state rules must take place, but such reviews are quite time consuming. We ask adoptive families and their supporters to contact ODJFS and request that the Director Helen Jones-Kelley issue a procedure letter intructing county agencies, hearing officers and ODJFS Legal Services staff to abide by the Child Welfare Policy Manual . Such a communication would not only correct a longstanding flaw in Ohio's adoption assistance policy, but prevent eligible special needs children from being denied federal adoption support. The Child Welfare Policy Manual could then be used as the basis for a thorough review of the revised 2007 OAC adoption assistance rules in OAC 5101:2-49.
Please contact Sandra Holt, Deputy Director, Family, Children and Adult Services through her Adminstrative Assistant Julia Bourdeau by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also contact the Office of ODJFS Director Helen Jones-Kelley by fax at Fax (614)466-2815.
The following is a possible draft you can use as an example.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has never informed county agencies and hearing officers that the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual is the authoritative source for interpretation of Title IV-E adoption assistance law and supercedes any state regulations in the Ohio Adminstrative Code that are contrary to its provisions. Errors in current OAC adoption assistance rules are resulting in the denial of adoption assistance to special needs children that are clearly eligible under fedearlk law. [Add any personal problems you have exerienced or are aware of involving adoptive families].
To prevent further injustices and to bring Ohio into conformity with its own IV-E State Plan, we request that Director Helen Jones-Kelley correct the omissions of the Taft Administration and issue a procedure letter somewhat like the following.
To: County Children Services Agencies, Private Child Placing Agencies, State Hearing Officers, the ODJFS Office of Legal Services and the Office of Child and Family Services.
This letter is to inform you that the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual is the authoritative source for the interpretation of federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance and Foster Care Law. From the outset, the federal Children’s Bureau has relied on policy issuances rather than administrative regulations to administer the Title IV-E program. Around six years ago, the Children’s Bureau consolidated the policy issues into an online manual that is regularly updated. The Child Welfare Policy Manual, consequently, supersedes any rules in the Ohio Administrative Code, which may be inconsistent with its provisions.
Effective immediately, the Child Welfare Policy Manual is to be consulted when any dispute arises over eligibility, benefit and procedural issues in the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance and Foster Care Maintenance Programs. County child welfare agencies are instructed to rely on its provisions in determining eligibility and benefits. Hearing officers and administrative reviewers are instructed to consult applicable sections of the Child Welfare Policy Manual in rendering hearing and appeal decisions. Ohio Adoption Assistance and Foster Care Maintenance rules will be reviewed and amended to conform to the Child Welfare Policy Manual. ODJFS has been out of compliance with its own IV-E State Plan for several years and such a letter would not only fix that problem, but curtail the denial of adoption assistance to eligible special needs children. Following the letter, the OAC adoption assistance rules could be reviewed on a priority basis.
Contact me by e-mail at email@example.com with any questions, or by phone at 614-299-0177. In the coming days, I will publish detailed policy briefs on the state's failure to establsih the federal Child Welfare Manual as the authoritative source of federal adoption assistance law, as well as specific critiques of Ohio rules that are out of compliance with federal law.