Cincinnati, Ohio.  Families of adopted special needs children have now won their first round in court in their class action against Warren County.  They seek full access to adoption subsidies under federal law.  United States Magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz recently recommended that Warren Count’s motion for judgment on the pleadings be denied in part.  Specifically, she ruled that the families “had an individually enforceable right” under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act but did not agree with the claim that the families were denied their right to familial association.

 

Lead attorney for the class, Al Gerhardstein, stated that, “We are encouraged by the Court’s ruling as this puts us one step closer to securing fair subsidies for these families who have taken very challenging children into their homes.  These subsidies are needed for therapy, programming, and basic services that many of these families cannot otherwise afford.  Warren County provides the lowest subsidies in the state.”

 

Both sides have until July 16, 2017 to file objections to the magistrate ruling.  Also pending is a motion for a preliminary injunction, a motion to certify the case as a class action and a motion to provide notice to the members of the class about the lawsuit.  The children at the center of this case have in most cases been removed from their biological parents due to abuse, neglect or dependency and many were initially foster placements with the plaintiff families.  Many were exposed to drugs in utero.  Only after reunification efforts fail and parental rights are terminated do the children become eligible for adoption.  In many cases their special needs make them unattractive as adoptive children and their foster parents step up and make the commitment to adopt.  The children often pose behavioral problems and have many needs.  The plaintiff family class members simply seek resources already allotted under federal law to help meet the needs of these children. Co-counsel on the case are Barbara Ginn, an adoption attorney, and Caroline Hyatt of Gerhardstein & Branch. A copy of the court ruling is posted here.

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