State blames lawmakers for failure to pay adoption assistance

DCS told families they didn't have money to pay families' claims, but returned $240 million to the State between 2009-2014. (WTHR file photo)
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Indiana's Department of Child Services is trying to head off a class action lawsuit.

The agency is accused of failing to pay adoption subsidies to families who adopted special needs children from the state's care.

13 Investigates introduced you to one of the families still waiting for assistance. Now, for the first time, the state goes on the record regarding the allegations and appears to be passing the blame.

Summer play has come and gone for Stephanie Kerner's four adopted children. It's time to head back to school.

All of the children have special needs. The State of Indiana provides a subsidy for three of them, but when it comes to 3-year-old Georgie, DCS said it doesn't have the money.

But a new lawsuit filed by a LaPorte grandmother claims the state refused to pay 1,400 families on waiting lists for help with counseling and other services. Instead, it handed millions back over to Indiana's general fund.

"I was told the adoption subsidy would be there when I adopted them. But yet I was put on a waiting list," said Debra Moss, who is still waiting for money for her three grandsons.

"We have a child who is diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, diagnosed seizure disorder and several other things. In her case, it's going to come out of our pocket," Kerner told 13 Investigates back in June.

Up until now, the state has refused to comment on the lawsuit. But this week, court documents are doing the talking.

In a filing, the state did admit that "DCS has reverted more than $238 million of funds allocated by the General Assembly to the state's general fund since 2009."

During the same period, the state also "admits adoptive children have been placed on adoption subsidy waiting list"

But that's where the state draws the line. It says families aren't getting what was promised for their special needs children because of "the failure of the General Assembly to appropriate sufficient funds to DCS's Adoption Assistance Account."

Attorneys for the families say the state's lack of subsidies is causing the number of state adoptions to plummet and that the state is harming some of Indiana's most vulnerable children while costing taxpayers more, because children are staying in the state's care.

Kerner has testified at the Statehouse in the past to try to get more help for families, who can't always determine the future needs of their children. She says she wants to see lawmakers mandate the transfer of unspent money at DCS into the Adoption Assistance Account.

Meanwhile, the state contends there is no need for a class action lawsuit.