Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Audit disputes adoption delays

February 22, 2005


An investigation of the state's privatized adoption system found little or no evidence that adoptions were delayed in an attempt to increase profits.

"We did not see that pattern at all," said Joe Lawhorn, an audit manager with the state Legislative Division of Post Audit.

Legislators ordered the audit last year after several judges accused the state's adoption contractor, Kansas Children's Service League, of hindering "slam-dunk adoptions" because payments for these children were needed to offset the expenses of those who were less likely to be adopted.

"We did not find that to be the case," Lawhorn said.

Still, he said, the system is fraught with delays. Twenty of the 30 adoptions reviewed by Post Audit staff included at least one delay found to be unreasonable or unexplained.

Generally, the study found that delays caused by KCSL workers tended to add one or two months to an adoption becoming final; those caused by adoptive parents added at least two months to the process.

Most of the delays caused by adoptive parents, Lawhorn said, stemmed from parents missing deadlines for completing paperwork. Some of these delays, he said, were driven by parents struggling with the realization that they would soon lose the monthly foster care payments.

It's not unusual, Lawhorn said, for foster parents to receive $500 to $700 a month for children in their care. After they adopt, the most they're eligible for is a $400-a-month stipend and the child's Medicaid-funded health care benefits.

"The state needs to continue to look at the difference between foster care maintenance payments and adoption subsidies," said Sandra Dixon, vice president of Child Welfare Services at KCSL.

"But this isn't automatically about more money," she said. "It's more about making sure the supports for adoptive families are available and timely."

In recent years, the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has resisted efforts to increase state-funded adoption stipends.

"Stipends are not meant to cover all the costs; they're meant to assist," said Sandra Hazlett, director of child and family policy at SRS. "We can't put ourselves in a position of making it profitable for anybody to adopt."

Other Post Audit findings:

  • Though KCSL finalized a record 633 adoptions last year, the number of foster children entering the adoption contract since 2002 has stayed between 675 and 697; the number of children awaiting adoption has stayed between 1,500 and 1,600 children.
  • Of the 1,538 children awaiting adoption last year, 250 had been in the adoption contract for five or more years.
  • From referral to finalization, the average adoption recorded last year took 572 days.

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