Children’s Rights filed this class action in August 2005, together with a broad coalition of Missouri advocates, when a new Missouri law threatened to cut off critical adoption subsidies for special needs foster children. The asserted that the law, known as Senate Bill 539, violated the rights of children under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (as amended), and the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit claimed that the law would eliminate adoption assistance subsidies for thousands of special needs children in foster care, and retroactively cut off adoption assistance subsidies to thousands of children already adopted who had contracts with the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) promising those subsidies until they turned 18.
Children’s Rights secured an initial temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction order preventing the law from taking effect until the trial. Shortly thereafter, Children’s Rights won class certification so that the case could proceed on behalf of the thousands of children who would be hurt by the new law. Following a federal trial in April 2006, the plaintiff children won on all legal claims and the court permanently banned the adoption subsidy provisions of Senate Bill 539 from ever taking effect.
The permanent ban on Senate Bill 539 remains in place, helping to protect the availability of adoption subsidies for thousands of special needs children still in foster care and aiding their chances for finding permanent adoptive homes.
At the time the complaint was filed, there were 15 named plaintiffs, including N.S., a 3-year-old boy who was adopted in 2002. N.S. suffered from severe asthma, which necessitated four daily medications and two daily breathing treatments, and experienced 11 hospital visits in 13 months. He lived with his adoptive parents in their home in Boone County, which they modified to suit N.S’s needs. The parents received a monthly adoption subsidy under an agreement with DSS. Had Senate Bill 539 cut that subsidy, the family would not have been able to afford to meet N.S.’s medical and educational needs, or to adopt a second child for whom they had already obtained approval.