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Heartfelt gesture

Pence does right by adoptive families

A long wait is over for 1,800 Hoosier families who adopted foster children and qualified for a state subsidy that had never been paid.

Tuesday, the state announced that Gov. Mike Pence had authorized payments to those families, some of whom have been on the Department of Child Service’s waiting list since 2009.

Pence, who said the subsidies this year would be paid from unspent funds that would have gone back into the state’s general fund, said he ordered the payments because it is “the right thing to do.”

The announcement came days after The Indianapolis Star revealed that the DCS, in answering a class-action lawsuit filed by some of the foster parents, had blamed the legislature for the long delay because money for the subsidies was not specifically appropriated. While he was returning unspent money to the state treasury, DCS Director at the time James Payne began having his department sign foster care agreements that promised parents the subsidies would be paid if the money ever became available.

But it was John Broden, a Democratic senator from South Bend, who waged the long battle to bring Indiana into step with the rest of the country. Broden, an attorney who specializes in adoptions, has long pointed out that Indiana is the only state in the union that hasn’t provided such subsidies to parents who take on the permanent care of foster children with special needs.

Broden said he will probably introduce his bill to specifically authorize subsidy payments in the legislature next January. But in truth, the battle seems to be over. Broden said he expects that the funds to pay for the subsidies going forward will be included in the governor’s general budget requests at the beginning of the session. “I applaud the governor for this long-overdue step,” Broden said.

Still unclear is whether parents who adopted in good faith but have been waiting for years while struggling to help their adopted children deal with chronic illnesses, inherited drug addictions, or physical or emotional abuse will get significant retroactive payments from the state.

This may be something for the legislative study committee that’s looking at the whole issue of adoptions to address.

Pence has often emphasized, as DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura said Tuesday, that he “has a heart for adoptive and foster families.” By taking action on the subsidies issue, the governor has shown that’s not just talk.