(CN) – Foster parents say in a federal class action that Indiana is forcing them to give up 25 percent of their federally mandated per diem allowance for children with special needs, in violation of the Social Security Act. It’s the latest in a series of class actions across the nation that accuse states of trying to balance their budgets on the backs of the vulnerable.
Indiana amended its payment schedule in January, requiring prospective adoptive parents to sign away their rights to 25 percent of their per diem payments, reducing it from $25 to $18.75, according to the complaint.
“If prospective adoptive parents refuse to sign the contract they risk removal of the children from their care and the children risk substantial disruption and harm in their lives,” say the plaintiffs, who are identified only by their initials.
The class claims the state refused to negotiate, and that if the foster parents refuse, the children risk being thrown into the limbo of the state’s foster care system.
Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides that adoption assistance payments be made after special needs children are adopted, the size of the payments to be determined on a case-by-case basis and based on the needs of the parents and the needs of the child being adopted.
Once the amount is established through an agreement between the prospective parents and the state agency administering the program, it cannot be readjusted without consent of the parents, according to the complaint.
But in January, Indiana’s Department of Child Services decided to violate the law by stating that foster parents may not receive more than 75 percent of per diem payments, the complaint states. And the state claims it has the right to reduce the rate again if it wants to.
The plaintiffs want Indiana enjoined to follow the federal laws. They are represented in Indianapolis Federal Court by Kenneth Falk and Gavin Rose with the ACLU of Indiana.