| Arizona Republic
The Department of Child Safety has suspended paying the adoption subsidy to a Maricopa mother who is accused of abusing and neglecting her seven children, and officials are seeking to end the monthly payments altogether.
Machelle Hobson receives state support for each of her seven adopted children, a total amount estimated to be as much as $4,900 a month. But since she was arrested last week, and her children placed in the foster system, the subsidy payments won’t serve their intended purpose of supporting the children.
The move comes even as federal rules state that an adoptive parent is entitled to the subsidy until his or her parental rights are severed by the court.
DCS acknowledged that the mother has due process rights, and said it is abiding by federal law. But in a statement, communications director Cynthia Weiss said the agency has taken the first step by asking the Pinal County Juvenile court to cut off the subsidy.
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Adoption attorney Jeffrey Zurbriggen said when adoptive parents decide to return a child to the foster system, the child’s attorney or DCS can ask the court to cease payments.
Alternatively, the adoptive parent could voluntarily surrender the subsidy, or the juvenile court could initiate an action to cease the payments.
Several of Hobson’s children told Maricopa police officers that they were pepper-sprayed as discipline, deprived of food, water and bathroom visits, and taken out of school for several years so they could perform in YouTube videos their mother made.
Hobson is in Pinal County Jail in lieu of a $200,000 bond. The children have been placed in foster homes or, possibly group homes.
On the same weekend Hobson was arrested and her children removed, DCS’ Placement Center had to house 40 children because the agency couldn’t immediately find foster beds for them.
DCS said the unusual event was driven, in part, by a number of large sibling groups coming into state care.
DCS has declined to comment further on the case involving the seven siblings, citing confidentiality laws. However, Weiss said it’s important for people who might suspect a child is being abused or neglected to contact DCS.
Channel 15 reported that police were called to the family’s Maricopa residence in 2017 to look for a child who was running naked through the neighborhood. Weiss would not comment on whether DCS was asked to visit the home in the wake of that incident.
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