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May 20, 2018

RELATIVES SAY THEY DON'T GET THE $750 MO. FOSTER CARE MONEY KENTUCKY OWES THEM

Accusing state officials of "a brazen violation of federal law," a group of grandparents and other relatives raising children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect have filed a lawsuit seeking foster payments they say they are entitled to under a court ruling last year.

State policy requires state social service officials to try to place such children with relatives before placing them in foster care with strangers.State policy requires state social service officials to try to place such children with relatives before placing them in foster care with strangers.

"They're not in it for the money, but they need help," said Lexington lawyer Richard Dawahare, who filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of 14 adults and 21 children. "They need help raising these kids."

A spokesman for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees foster care, said it has not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit.

But spokesman Doug Hogan said the agency is "confident" in its interpretation of the court ruling and said any attempt to "broaden the scope" of the order is not consistent with the language of the ruling.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Lexington comes eight months after a federal court ruling that said Kentucky must pay relatives providing free foster care the same as it does licensed foster families who take in children placed with them by the cabinet.

It also comes as the number of children removed from homes continues to climb, fueled by the state's ongoing drug addiction epidemic, primarily with heroin but also from methamphetamine and narcotic painkillers. State records show that as of this month, nearly 9,300 children are in state care, an unprecedented number.

State policy requires state social service officials to try to place such children with relatives before placing them in foster care with strangers.

The ruling requiring foster payments to relatives became final in October after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal of the original case, also brought by Dawahare.

Cabinet officials said earlier this year they would begin making payments of about $750 per month per child but Dawahare said the process has been excruciatingly slow — likening it to dragging a mule — and officials routinely deny people he believes are entitled to payments.

"They're just looking for any way they can to not have to pay so they can save money," Dawahare said.

Kimberly Guffy, a Logan County grandmother caring for two young children, is one of the plaintiffs in the case.

She said state officials offered to make foster payments for one of her grandchildren but refused payments for the other child, claiming they weren't responsible because the child hadn't been in foster care before being placed by the state in Guffy's home.

"It's disappointing that further litigation is needed to convince the cabinet to comply with federal law," Guffy said. "They have successfully bent the rules to this point. We shall see if they continue to be successful. What's right is right. "

Dawahare said the state has used similar reasoning for denying the payments to the other plaintiffs in his case — insisting that the child must have been in foster care before going to the relative's home. The state has been refusing payments to relatives if social service officials place the child directly with the relatives.

Dawahare said that's a misinterpretation of the federal appeals court ruling that decided the case.

"The cabinet's violation of federal law is an egregious denial of federal rights to some of our most vulnerable citizens," his lawsuit said.

Under the ruling, if a child has been removed from the parents and placed in the care of the state, the state must pay relatives if it places the child with them for temporary care— regardless of whether the child has first gone through the foster care system, Dawahare said.

He said the plaintiffs in his lawsuit represent only a handful of the many relatives, often on fixed incomes and desperate for help, who have called him to report the state refused their claims.

"They know they should get paid," he said. "They can’t understand why they seem to fulfill every requirement and yet the cabinet refuses to give them money."

Holly Brooks Dillon, of Owensboro, another one of the plaintiffs, said she has been raising two granddaughters for 17 months after they were removed from their parents because of drug abuse. The state has refused her application for foster payments, saying she's not eligible because the girls didn't go through foster care before coming to her home.

"I think it's awesome that he's filing a lawsuit," she said of Dawahare. "I want to see something happen on it not just for me, but for other families."

Paula Grant, a disabled grandmother in Columbia, said she has been providing temporary care for three grandchildren for five years, yet the state recently refused her request for foster payments because the children had been placed directly in her home.

"I can't get no help. I've talked to every human being I can possibly talk to," she said. "If I could get some relief, some help with the children it would sure be greatly appreciated. I'm not taking care of them for money, that’s not my motive."

By Deborah Yetter
Louisville Courier Journal

Comments  

+1 #2 Money love 2018-05-22 19:15
Oh my goodness, Money you hit the nail on the head. Why should the state pay for other people’s children’s mistakes. Grandparents had the loser children who didn’t take care of their kids and now we’re paying for their stupid kids errors in judgment and lack of reality. Definitely not the children’s fault but parents of the parents definitely play a part in the lack of their kids parenting skills. Aunts and uncles and third party people are different.
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+2 #1 Money 2018-05-21 18:57
It's now profitable to have babies out of wedlock. Its crazy in this country to go to work or to get married. Thanks US government. How long will it be before it's profitable to become a drug addict. Oh I forgot your not supposed to call them addicts. Its a disease. Hope its not contagious.
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