TOPEKA — An amended civil complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Kansas alleges the Kansas Department for Children and Families, as well as other agencies and individuals, are engaged in a “Kids for Cash type unlawful enterprise.”
“Private agencies are contracted that the longer they keep the kids, the more funding they get,” said plaintiff Raymond Schwab. “They allegedly, purposefully adopt kids or keep kids, we believe, to maximize their funding.”
The lawsuit refers to Title IV, a federal funding initiative.
DCF does receive funding from Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, said department communications director Theresa Freed. Reimbursement is provided for the maintenance and administrative costs of foster care and in adoption assistance. A child’s background and special needs determine whether the funding is federal or state, Freed said.
“As for the financial incentive, the removal of a child into foster care is a decision made by the court, not DCF nor its contractors,” Freed said. “DCF makes it a priority to keep families together, when that is a safe option.
“When it is not, foster care is a temporary solution, while we work closely with the parents to address the safety issues. If parents choose not to cooperate with the process to make their home a safe environment, the court will often continue to keep a child in foster care or move toward a permanency option, such as adoption. We strive to ensure the best interest of the child.”
The lawsuit was filed March 31 in federal court by Raymond and Amelia Schwab, who have been entangled in a contentious battle with DCF since April 2015, when five of their children were taken into state custody.
Raymond Schwab, a veteran, alleges his children were removed from his and his wife’s custody because he has used medical marijuana to treat chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Schwabs live in Colorado, where Raymond’s marijuana use is legal. As the couple prepared to move there from Topeka in 2015, the state removed five of their six children.
On March 14, Raymond Schwab began a hunger strike, which ended when the federal lawsuit was filed.
In April, the Kansas Court of Appeals determined the Schwab children were taken into state custody because of allegations of drug use — including methamphetamine — and neglect, not Raymond Schwab’s medical marijuana use.
Defendants in the lawsuit include Gov. Sam Brownback, DCF, Riley County Police Department, KVC and St. Francis Community Services.
The lawsuit among other accusations purports defendants have threatened that the Schwabs permanently would lose their children if they didn’t silence their protests; deprived the children in state custody of their religious faith; institutionalized one of the children as a retaliatory act against the Schwabs for exposing actions of the defendants; and refused to provide exculpatory evidence.
The Schwabs are seeking general and special damages of $1 million per child for each year they have been in state custody, with $100,000 in additional damages per child for each month. The couple also is seeking an injunction granting the return of the five children.
Since initiation of the suit, numerous motions to dismiss have been filed on behalf of various defendants.