Review Finds Inconsistent Collection of Fees for Care of Disabled Kids
In recent years, the California Department of Developmental Services has inconsistently collected fees from parents whose children with disabilities require state-funded out-of-home care, according to a review of agency data and employee correspondence by the Sacramento Bee.
The data were obtained under a California Public Records Act request.
The Bee review found that DDS negotiated parental fees "based on unclear and sometimes conflicting criteria" and failed to "collect much of what it claims the state is owed."
According to the review, parents of children who receive 24-hour, out-of-home care are assessed monthly fees based on:
- Family size;
- Age of the child receiving services;
- Household income; and
- Government estimates for the cost of raising a child in the state.
However, such assessments vary by hundreds of dollars per month between families in similar situations, according to the review.
The review found that, between Sept. 2011 and Sept. 2012, the department did not assess a fee on parents who were eligible to pay a fee for their child's care in more than 300 of nearly 650 cases.
Among parents who were assessed a fee, about 100 did not pay any amount during the one-year period. Parents who did not pay during that time owed amounts ranging from $50 to $1,877, according to the review.
In a statement, DDS said parents who are delinquent on their fees "continue to pay down their assessed fees over a period of time."
The department said it has pursued fees through the legal system only "after all other state-required collection efforts were exhausted."
Disability-rights advocates said the findings are concerning because they could have implications for the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, which provides state services to individuals with disabilities.
Dena Hernandez -- executive director of an area board of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities -- said it seems as though DDS is not enforcing fees "in a fair and equitable manner" (Siders, Sacramento Bee, 8/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.