March 17, 2003

HSLDA Assists Family With Disabled Child

An Home School Legal Defense Association member family who has a ministry of adopting special needs children ran into trouble with a county agency that cut off government benefits because they homeschool.

In 1994, the Cartier (name changed) family adopted a disabled child through the Montgomery County Children Services in Ohio. As part of this agreement, the County agreed to provide adoption assistance benefits until John turned 21.

In January 2003, the Cartiers received a letter from a county social worker informing them that John's benefits were terminated since he had turned 18 and did not have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) from his school. IEPs are agreements between public schools and parents about the special needs services that the school will provide. Since the Cartiers homeschool John and go through a private organization for special needs services, he does not need an IEP.

The family contacted HSLDA for help and we immediately appealed. Under state law, the benefits were supposed to continue until a hearing, but instead, the social worker terminated them right away.

Before the hearing, which was scheduled for March 14, 2003, HSLDA filed a brief with the administrative hearing officer, explaining that the Ohio law governing adoption assistance payments did not require that the adopted children have an IEP. In addition, we argued that if the County had a policy that a public school IEP was required to continue giving benefits past age 18, it was unconstitutional because it locked families into sending their children to public school for special needs services. HSLDA also pointed out that the County had wrongfully cut off payments to the Cartiers even though we had appealed within the proper deadline.

Within a day of receiving our brief, the hearing officer forced Montgomery County to reinstate the Cartiers' adoption assistance benefits.

The hearing on March 14 was held by telephone conference call, with a notable absence. No one from Montgomery County Children Services showed up, either in person or by telephone. Because of this, the hearing officer entered an immediate default judgment in favor of the Cartiers.

"We are glad that we had the opportunity to help this family who has taken on the ministry of caring for children who are often ignored by the world," said Darren Jones, an HSLDA staff attorney.