Nearly 1,400 families who adopted special-needs children out of foster care are in line to receive state subsidies under an order Gov. Mike Pence gave a state agency Tuesday.
The Department of Child Services will fund the $10 million in subsidies out of unspent money that would have otherwise reverted back to the state’s main checking account.
The move comes just two months after a LaPorte woman filed a lawsuit, saying the state owed her subsidies. Initially, the agency said in a court response that it didn’t have the cash for the payments because the General Assembly didn’t appropriate it. But Pence sent a letter to DCS on Tuesday saying the state would fund the subsidies for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2015.
“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,” Pence said in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, the legislative Adoption Study Committee will investigate the issue for future funding, the governor said. That group met Tuesday.
Already, the state pays more than $92 million in adoption subsidies for more than 11,000 children through a Federal Adoption Assistance Program and the County Adoption Subsidy. Children who are not eligible for those programs may receive other forms of adoption assistance such as Medicaid and a one-time, non-recurring adoption expense and had been placed on the State Adoption Subsidy waitlist.
The new state subsidies will apply to those on the waiting lists and those who adopt during fiscal year 2015.
State Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, applauded the governor’s decision on Tuesday but called it long overdue. He said a “society is ultimately judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.”
“I am hard pressed to imagine a more vulnerable class of people than abused and neglected children,” he said.
In 2012, Broden introduced Senate Bill 348 urging state government to provide subsidies to parents who adopt children with special needs. He followed that up with similar legislation in 2013. But the bills died.
“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,” Broden said in a statement.