ACLU lawsuit says Allegheny County denied foster care payment to Leechburg woman
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that an Allegheny County agency illegally denied a Leechburg woman foster care payments and other support for the past two years because the four children she’s taking care of are related to her.
Federal and state law requires the Office of Children, Youth and Families to treat foster parents who are relatives of abused and neglected children the same as they treat other foster families, said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
“Finding kind-hearted family members doesn’t relieve child welfare agencies of their obligations to provide support,” he said.
Tracy Schaeffer has been caring for three grandnieces and a grandnephew, all younger than 13, since early 2012, when their drug-addicted parents could no longer care for them, the lawsuit says.
She has repeatedly asked the office for help, but agency employees have refused to provide legal, financial or any other support, the lawsuit says. The office also ignored state and federal laws requiring it to tell Schaeffer that she was eligible to become a certified foster parent and receive financial assistance, the lawsuit says.
“I have done everything in my power to restore normalcy to these beautiful children’s lives, but providing for four young children isn’t cheap, and I have had to go into debt to do it,” Schaeffer said.
County spokeswoman Amie Downs declined to comment.
Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or [email protected].