National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Mark A. v. Wilson
also known asĀ Mark A. et. al v. Davis

Plaintiffs brought this class action on behalf of all children who are now or will be in foster care in California. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to the Due Process Clause and the federal Adoption Assistance Program (AAP).

Plaintiffs attacked defendant’s policy of applying a “means” test to an adoptive family to determine whether a child is eligible for an Adoption Assistance payment. Federal law expressly prohibits the use of an income eligibility test. Plaintiffs alleged that the state imposed unlawful restrictions on the availability of funds that provide support to families who adopt foster children. The suit further alleged that defendants terminate AAP support to families arbitrarily and without their agreement. Federal law states that an Adoption Assistance agreement is final once it is signed and can only be modified with the concurrence of the family.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT AND DATE FILED

CIV-S-98-0041 LKK DAD (E.D. Cal., Jan. 8, 1998)

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Maria Ramiu
Youth Law Center
417 Montgomery Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 543-3379
Fax: (415) 956-9022
mramui@ylc.org

HISTORY AND STATUS

The state filed a complaint to join the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as a third party defendant on February 20, 1998. The state and plaintiffs filed cross motions for summary judgment on April 23, 1999. On July 14, 1999, DHHS, as a third party defendant, filed a response to the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment agreeing with plaintiffs that California utilizes a means test prohibited by federal statute. The parties filed a Stipulated Settlement on November 2, 1999. As a result of the settlement, there will be no means test used to determine an adoptive family’s benefits under the AAP and the adoption assistance benefits will be a negotiated amount based on the needs of the child and the circumstances of the family. Attorneys for plaintiffs also co-sponsored legislation to implement the settlement. The State has implemented new regulations, and plaintiffs continue to monitor their compliance with the terms of the settlement.