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Ohio sued over lower payments to relatives caring for kids

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At issue are payments to relatives who aren’t licensed caregivers but are approved to care for children taken from their parents. The arrangement is often referred to as kinship care.

Posted: Nov 19, 2020 3:21 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — People in Ohio who have taken custody of children they’re related to are being illegally denied state foster care payments to help cover their child-raising costs, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

At issue are payments to relatives who aren’t licensed caregivers but are approved to care for children taken from their parents.

The arrangement is often referred to as kinship care.

A substantial disparity exists in payments to licensed foster care providers and payments to relatives such as grandparents or aunts and uncles who have been unexpectedly asked to care for kids they’re related to.

Ohio has been under pressure from child advocates to follow a 2017 federal appeals court ruling ordering equality in such payments.

One person involved in Thursday’s lawsuit is caring for a one-year-old boy in Cuyahoga County, and receiving $302 per month in state benefits under the current system, according to the lawsuit.

But licensed foster care parents in Cuyahoga County receive much higher amounts — from $615 to $2,371 per month per child — and even more if children have special needs, the lawsuit said.

“These vulnerable abused children have the same needs, at the most critical time of their lives, as the children going to non-relatives,” said Richard Dawahare, a Kentucky attorney representing children and their caregivers in three Ohio counties — Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton.

He also brought the original lawsuit that led to the 2017 court ruling.

The issue has come to the fore in recent years as more kids are being removed from their homes amid the opioid crisis, and the economic pressures of the coronavirus pandemic have only made things worse, the lawsuit said.

The gap in payments also disproportionately affects Black relatives caring for children, the lawsuit said.

While Black people represent about 12% of the Ohio population, Black children make up 24% of those placed with relatives, the lawsuit said.

Kimberly Hall, the director of Ohio’s human services agency, told The Associated Press in October 2019 the agency planned to increase such payments.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in February he was close to releasing his plan on the issue. But nothing has happened since.

A message was left with the state seeking comment on Thursday’s complaint.

The federal ruling that ordered equality in payments applied to Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, and Ohio, the four states overseen by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee have all been making the payments, records show.

Relatives caring for children often face more challenges than licensed foster parents, according to an analysis of the payment disparity released this week by Policy Matters Ohio.

“While foster parents make a choice and plan to become caregivers, kinship caregivers are often abruptly asked to make a dramatic, unexpected change in their life and take on a major new commitment,” said the report by budget researcher Will Petrik.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 613228

Reported Deaths: 9728
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion846851338
Lake45676687
Allen32980552
Hamilton29649315
St. Joseph27531382
Elkhart24478345
Vanderburgh19610250
Tippecanoe18108141
Johnson15191295
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Grant6027116
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Marshall506984
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Union6297
Ohio4977
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 868656

Reported Deaths: 10768
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102154707
Cuyahoga865201153
Hamilton64744448
Montgomery43516419
Summit35250762
Lucas31663631
Butler31268232
Stark26096443
Warren19830142
Lorain19296229
Mahoning17471339
Lake16250154
Clermont16128112
Delaware1453680
Licking13326137
Fairfield1294981
Trumbull12920317
Greene12174141
Medina11732168
Clark11058265
Wood10457158
Allen9988127
Portage9454111
Miami924473
Richland9236118
Marion7486113
Tuscarawas7440183
Columbiana7409124
Pickaway732150
Wayne7111172
Muskingum710342
Erie6221130
Ross5558100
Hancock555292
Scioto542764
Geauga515955
Darke473492
Lawrence460658
Union456928
Ashtabula456473
Sandusky439562
Mercer435089
Seneca433866
Huron432841
Auglaize424164
Shelby422522
Jefferson422469
Belmont421145
Washington394240
Athens38389
Putnam378075
Madison358129
Knox356122
Ashland349038
Fulton340443
Defiance334486
Crawford325774
Preble322737
Brown315821
Logan312132
Ottawa296543
Clinton291543
Williams280367
Highland279018
Jackson265845
Guernsey257126
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Fayette239530
Morrow23464
Perry233718
Holmes226774
Henry221953
Hardin215533
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Van Wert203445
Gallia199826
Wyandot196751
Pike178017
Adams177715
Hocking173224
Carroll157616
Paulding145321
Noble121040
Meigs109724
Monroe102232
Harrison89921
Morgan83931
Vinton71314
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