Sixth Circuit Decision on Title IV-E Maintenance Payments to Kinship Placements

Here.

Not an ICWA/Indian child case, but one that is important nonetheless given its ruling ensuring Title IV-E maintenance payments. The lack of these payments sometimes make kinship care very difficult on relative placements–Title IV-E maintenance payments cover, among other things, the child’s food, clothing, and shelter. 42 U.S.C. 675(4)(A). After determining that the aunt/foster parent established a cause of action, the court held that:

The family argues that the Cabinet approved R.O. [child’s aunt] to be a foster parent. Prior to placement, the Cabinet verified that R.O. met relevant non-safety standards by conducting a home evaluation and a background check. After determining that her home was safe, the family court moved the children from another foster provider to her care. R.O. therefore argues that the Cabinet “approved” her as a foster parent for the children.

Kentucky offers several arguments in response. Kentucky distinguishes between “foster care” and “kinship care.” According to Kentucky, “foster care” refers to licensed foster family homes. “Kinship care,” by contrast, refers to relative caregivers. Although the Cabinet must remit maintenance payments to foster parents, the Cabinet need only pay kinship care providers “[t]o the extent funds are available.” Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 605.120(5) (West 2016). Due to inadequate appropriations, Kentucky ceased funding its kinship care program.

To the extent the Cabinet’s failure to make maintenance payments turns on the distinction between relative and non-relative foster care providers, it plainly violates federal law. In Miller v. Youakim, 440 U.S. 125 (1979), Illinois placed two children with their older sister, Linda Youakim, and her husband. Id. at 130. “The Department investigated the Youakim home and approved it as meeting the licensing standards established for unrelated foster family homes . . . .” Id. Yet, “[d]espite this approval, the State refused to make Foster Care payments on behalf of the children because they were related to Linda Youakim.” Id. The Court reviewed the definition of “foster family home.” Id. at 130–31. After noting that the statute “defines this phrase in sweeping language,” the Court found that “Congress manifestly did not limit the term to encompass only the homes of nonrelated caretakers. Rather, any home that a State approves as meeting its licensing standards falls within the ambit of this definitional provision.” Id. at 135.

UPDATE (2/22/17 10:46AM) Download(PDF) Briefs: Brief of AppellantsBrief of Defendant-Appellee Vickie Yates Brown GlissonReply Brief of D.O., A.O. and R.O.

This entry was posted in Author: Kate E. Fort, Child Welfare and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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