INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Thousands of adoptive parents in Indiana will soon receive subsidy payments from the state for the first time in more than five years. The move follows the filing of a lawsuit claiming the state failed to deliver on promised payments to families since 2009.
It represents an about-face from Indiana’s Department of Child Services.
More than 1,400 families represented in the lawsuit claim the agency promised them payments of between $18.80 and $28.00 per day for each special needs child they adopted. The families claim they have not been paid any form of subsidy since 2009, despite the fact that DCS “returned over $238 million to the State of Indiana in excess funds that were available for DCS to pay the adoption subsidy.”
“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,” said Governor Mike Pence. “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.
According to a response filed in LaPorte County Superior Court, the agency admitted it “reverted more than $238 million of funds allocated to DCS by the General Assembly to the state’s general fund since 2009.” But, DCS denied those funds were “available” to pay adoption subsidies.
But, during an Adoption Study Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, a spokeswoman from the Governor’s office said the state does intent to fund the adoption subsidy program during the 2015 fiscal year.
“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,” said Director, Mary Beth Bonaventura.
Some lawmakers were quick to applaud the announcement.
“Senate Democrats have long pushed for Indiana to join every other state in making this incentive available to parents,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson), in a news release. “As I’ve stated in the past concerning the administration’s policies –better late than never.”
“As a state, we have an obligation to support these families who have stepped forward to adopt children who, through no fault of their own, have endured great pain and separation in their life,” said Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend), a member of the committee. “I applaud the governor for this long overdue step of honoring the state’s financial commitment and obligation to these families.”
Bills authored in both 2012 and 2013 by Broden that would have mandated state subsidies for families who adopt special needs children never passed out of committee.
A DCS spokesman said additional information on how the subsidies will be funded, their total cost, and which families will be eligible will be released soon.
Parents of adoptive children that have questions regarding subsidies can call 877-265-0086.