We could not let the month of November end without a post dedicated to National Adoption Month and to report on a recent victory for one of our clients. We represented a family in a state administrative hearing challenging a county’s decision to deny adoption assistance benefits to their son, who was placed with them at birth through a private adoption. The Adoption Assistance Program provides financial assistance to facilitate the adoption of children who would otherwise go into the foster care system. According to the Department of Social Services’ website, “[t]he California State Legislature created the Adoption Assistance Program with the intent to provide the security and stability of a permanent home through adoption.” Children who are placed for private adoption are eligible for adoption assistance benefits. Under Welfare and Institutions Code section 16120(i)(2), the responsible public welfare agency in the county of the child’s birth must certify that the child was “at risk of dependency” when he or she was relinquished for private adoption. In our case, the county decided that our clients’ son was not at risk of dependency, despite overwhelming evidence that the child would have gone into the child welfare system if he was not relinquished by his birth parents for adoption.
After an administrative hearing in front of an administrative law judge, the California Department of Social Services upheld the county’s decision. We filed a writ of administrative mandate to the Superior Court and succeeded in overturning the decision! The Superior Court found that the Department of Social Services’ decision that the child was not eligible for state benefits under the Adoption Assistance Program was wrong. The court issued a writ of administrative mandate setting aside the Department of Social Services’ decision and ordering the state to certify our clients’ son as eligible for state benefits. After five years of fighting to obtain benefits for their son, our clients finally succeeded!
Unfortunately, families may be dissuaded from challenging a wrongful denial of Adoption Assistance Benefits because their child’s adoption cannot be finalized until the final benefits decision is made. Our clients persevered for five years and can soon finalize their son’s adoption!
Quinn Covarrubias was thrilled to be a part of this awesome victory! Lead attorney, Stephanie Quinn, is an adoptive mom herself. Her kids, ages 7 and 4, were adopted at birth. Both were “hospital calls” where Stephanie and her husband received calls, unplanned, to travel to hospitals hundreds of miles away. Stephanie feels fortunate to have the opportunity to help other adoptive parents and fight for families who lovingly open their homes for children who may have otherwise gone into the system.