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Case Name Mark A. v. Wilson CW-CA-0004
Docket / Court Civ-S-98-0041-LKK-DAD ( E.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Public Benefits / Government Services
Attorney Organization Youth Law Center
Case Summary
This action involving California's Adoption Assistance Program was filed against the State of California on January 8, 1998, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The plaintiffs, children who are or will be in foster care, were represented by Youth Law Center; they ... read more >
This action involving California's Adoption Assistance Program was filed against the State of California on January 8, 1998, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The plaintiffs, children who are or will be in foster care, were represented by Youth Law Center; they sought declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to the Due Process Clause and the federal Adoption Assistance Program, claiming that the defendant's policies and actions violated their rights.

The complaint alleged that the State's policy of using a means test (which considers the statewide median income to determine whether a child is eligible for an Adoption Assistance payment) on the adoptive family arbitrarily and unilaterally reduced such payments based on the adoptive parents' income, and that the state violated federal law by imposing unlawful restrictions on the availability of funds that support families adopting foster children.

According to information on the plaintiff's website, the State filed a complaint to join the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a third-party defendant on February 20, 1998. HHS responded to the parties' cross motions for summary judgment by stating that the means test used by the state was prohibited by federal statute.

On September 17, 1999, the parties agreed upon a Stipulated Judgment. The Stipulated Judgment stated that the state agrees:

  • to cease the usage of the means test (including the use of statewide median income to determine payment amounts)
  • to cease reducing payments without the agreement of adoptive parents based on the adoptive parents' income or for any reason other than the child's ineligibility because of age
  • to cease informing prospective adoptive families that eligibility for adoption assistance is based on the income and financial resources of the adoptive parents
  • that the amount of an adoption assistance cash benefit will be negotiated based on the child's needs and the family's circumstances (the family's ability to incorporate the child in to the household in relation to its standard of living and future plans)
  • that once an AAP agreement has been signed, the adoptive parents will continue to receive benefits unless the department determines otherwise, the adoptive parents demonstrate a need for an increased (or decreased) payment, the adoptive parents voluntarily reduce or terminate payments, or the adopted child has an extraordinary need not anticipated at the time the amount was originally negotiated
  • that the state pay attorneys' fees and costs.

On November 1, 1999, the court signed off on the Stipulated Judgment.

Alice Liu - 10/25/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Adoption
Foster care (benefits, training)
Funding
Juveniles
Payment for care
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Adoption Assistance Program, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
Defendant(s) California Department of Social Services
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are foster and adopted children eligible for California's Adoption Assistance Program.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Youth Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1998 - 1999
Case Closing Year 1999
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Making Child Welfare Work: How the R.C. Lawsuit Forged New Partnerships to Protect Children and Sustain Families
By: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Bazelon Center)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:98-cv-00041-LKK-DAD (E.D. Cal.) 11/02/1999
CW-CA-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Stipulated Judgment 09/17/1999 (E.D. Cal.)
CW-CA-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Drozd, Dale Alan (E.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
CW-CA-0004-9000
Karlton, Lawrence K. (E.D. Cal.)
CW-CA-0004-0001 | CW-CA-0004-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ramiu, Maria Felisa (California)
CW-CA-0004-0001
Shauffer, Carole B. (California)
CW-CA-0004-0001 | CW-CA-0004-9000
Wilber, Shannan l. (California)
CW-CA-0004-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Furtek, Frank S. (California)
CW-CA-0004-0001
Jeandheur, Carole (District of Columbia)
CW-CA-0004-0001 | CW-CA-0004-9000
Lieber, Sheila M. (District of Columbia)
CW-CA-0004-0001 | CW-CA-0004-9000
Lockyer, Bill (California)
CW-CA-0004-0001
Underwood, Susan Patricia (California)
CW-CA-0004-0001 | CW-CA-0004-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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