Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Correction. I Misinterpreted the Indiana U.S. District Court Case

Boy is my face red!  In an embarrassing act of wishful thinking, I incorrectly characterized the Indiana U.S. District Court case JULIE ARTHUR and DAVID ARTHUR, Plaintiffs, v. DIRECTOR, CENTRAL ELIGIBILITY UNIT, INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES, Defendant, No. 1:15-cv-1718  as a judicial decision.

In fact the document was a complaint filed with the court presented by ACLU attorneys on behalf of the adoptive parents.  The appellant foster to adopt parents objected to the catastrophic drop in levels of support from the foster care payments they were receiving to the amount of adoption assistance proposed by the Indiana Department of Child Services.  Perhaps because this is such a common occurrence in Ohio, I saw what I wanted to see.

The state agency proposed only $52 a day in adoption assistance for the three children combined, which the complaint noted was "less than 36% of the foster care payments and less than the foster care payments that DCS makes for children without special needs."  One child received $65.56 per day in foster care payments (about $1,971 per month). The other two received $40.08 per day or about $1,219 apiece per month.  The total level of foster payments was $145.72 per day or $4,432 per month.

I may also have gotten carried away, by the attorney's reference to the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual and the claim that giving up work outside the home to care for special needs children and the need to purchase or remodel a home to accommodate children's mental health needs are legitimate topics under the heading of family circumstances.

On a happy note, the complaint led to a willingness on the part of state to re-enter negotiations of adoption assistance agreements for the three children.  Unfortunately, I do not know the results of the negotiations. 

So, apologies for my brain slipping out of gear.  We are unable the cite the case as a federal court decision.  We can point to the fact that the arguments raised by the ACLU induced the State of Indiana to re-enter negotiations.  And we note the examples of family circumstances and the references to the federal Child Welfare Policy Manual in addressing Ohio cases in which county agencies propose adoption assistance payments that are a fraction of the children's foster care payments.  

The ACLU complaint can be used to support arguments for adequate adoption assistance rates.  But, in the end, it is not nearly as persuasive as an actual court decision would be.

Mea Culpa.  In the future, I will try to avoid such obvious vacations from reality.