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Adoptive Family #1 v. Warren County

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

June 10, 2019

ADOPTIVE FAMILY #1 AND THEIR DAUGHTER A, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WARREN COUNTY, OHIO/WARREN COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          KAREN L. LITKOVITZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' joint motion to approve class action settlement (Doc. 116), plaintiffs' hearing memorandum in support of the motion to approve class action settlement (Doc. 122), plaintiffs' submission of time and expense record in support of plaintiffs' fee in class action settlement (Doc. 124). and the oral arguments presented by counsel at the fairness hearing on May 30, 2019. For the reasons stated below, the undersigned magistrate judge orders that the motion to approve the class action settlement is granted.

         I. Background

         a. Claims at Issue

         This class action challenges Warren County's adoption assistance agreements with the adoptive families of children determined to have "special needs" under the Title IV-E adoption assistance program. Plaintiffs Adoptive Families #1, #2, and #3 are families who have adopted children with special needs after serving them as foster parents.

         Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq., governs adoption assistance subsidies for adoptive parents. To receive federal funding under Title IV-E, states must develop a plan for adoption assistance and obtain approval of that plan from the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. 42 U.S.C. § 671. A state with an approved plan "shall enter into adoption assistance agreements .. . with the adoptive parents of children with special needs." 42 U.S.C. § 673(a)(1)(A). A child with special needs is one who is available for adoption and who meets certain criteria that have traditionally made children less likely to be adopted.

         Ohio has an approved state plan for adoption assistance and has agreed to be bound by all of the federal requirements under Title IV-E. Defendant Warren County administers adoption assistance subsidies through its public children services agency, Warren County Children Services (WCCS). See Ohio Admin. Code 5101:2-49-01. Warren County Children Services determines the initial and continuing eligibility for adoption assistance subsidies. Id.

         Plaintiffs challenge WCCS's performance of its obligations to enter into Adoption Assistance agreements with the adoptive families of children determined to have special needs under the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance program. The program is meant to provide financial support to families who adopt children with special needs from the public child welfare system. Plaintiffs allege that WCCS has failed to comply with federal law. Defendant denies the allegations and claims it has followed federal law.

         Specifically, plaintiffs allege, and defendant denies, that in the past Warren County:

a. Improperly required eligible children to have a diagnosis to qualify for adoption assistance payments;
b. Improperly restricted assistance to medical needs rather than all the anticipated and ordinary needs of the child;
c. Improperly refused to consider the family's circumstances in determining the amount of assistance, including but not limited to lost wages in the family attributable to the adoption; and
d. Has not always provided accurate information to families eligible for adoption assistance.

         Defendant asserts that it has complied with all federal and state law and regulations, and that it is obligated to obtain reasonable documentation of requests for federal, state and county tax dollars for adoption assistance subsidies and to ...


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