Court fight for Indiana adoption dollars has local connection

A LaPorte County woman is leading the fight for hundreds of adoptive parents in Indiana who believe they are being short changed.

The breach of contract suit seeks some $40 million worth of payments that were promised by the state’s Department of Family and Child Services, but never paid to some 1,400 families that adopted special needs foster children.

“I want answers,” said lead plaintiff Debra L. Moss. “I want to know how they can sleep at night knowing that these children don’t have this money to…Tell me, tell me how you pay a bill with love? I’d like to know.”

The State of Indiana had long provided subsidies to encourage the adoption of foster children, but abruptly stopped in 2009.

“The subsidies are in the approximate amount of $20 per day, that is real money in terms of raising a child,” said Attorney Richard Shevitz of Cohen and Malad, LLC.

The lawsuit contends that Debra Moss is owed some $40,000 for the three grandchildren she adopted in July of 2012. Moss says she figured the State of Indiana simply hadn’t paid the financial support as promised in the adoption contract because it couldn’t afford to.

“Until I was told that the state, the state, the DCS was returning money back in their budget, then I started to get a little bit heartbroken because I was just thinking about all these other families,”

“The state has defended this practice by saying people should adopt for love, not money,” said Shevitz. “But it cost money to raise children.”

Attorney Shaw Friedman of Friedman and Associates, P.C. described the lawsuit as a simple contract case: “The contract is included as part of the complaint, it’s an exhibit to the complaint and specifically it says to these adoptive parents, money will be paid for the subsidy when it’s available. It’s our contention as part of the suit, it has been available. The DCS has been reverting money to the general treasury all of those five years: Nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.”

That far exceeds the estimated $40 million total owed to the 1,400 families in question.

The suit also contends that the adoptions of Indiana foster children have dropped some 35 percent over the past two years. “Which is pretty good evidence that without this money, families can’t afford to adopt these children out of the state foster care program,” said Shevitz. “When you listen to stories from people who tell you literally that they have children from foster care that they would like to adopt out of that foster care system and make them a permanent member of their family but are unable to do so because the state is not honoring its contracts with families to support that process.”

As for Debra Moss, she has been getting by solely on her social security disability check. “I but the children’s clothing at the St. John’s Thrift Store and I do a lot of sewing and altering,” said Moss. “We’re talking about Hoosier children in the most dire of social and economic circumstances,” said Shevitz.

The suit contends that it is cheaper for the State of Indiana to subsidize the adoption of a foster child than to continue paying a foster parent for care.

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