Date: 1997-03-11

News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN)


The father of 28 adopted Haitian children who was ordered by a judge to quit working and go on welfare says he is broke, waiting for the benefits to start.

``They give all these orders and tell me about all these emergency funds, . . . and all that,'' Dan Blackburn said. ``Well, I don't even have a telephone interview until next Friday with Social Security, and it can be three months until those (benefits) ever kick into effect.''

Blackburn was ordered earlier this month by Judge Charles O'Connor to quit work, apply for welfare benefits and stay home to supervise his children. He and his former wife, Kathy, adopted the children, many with special needs, while the two served as missionaries in Haiti. They are now divorced, and last July, O'Connor awarded custody of the 19 remaining children to Dan Blackburn.

Last month, county welfare officials reported that they found filthy and unsafe conditions at the family's homes, prompting O'Connor to issue his order.

Blackburn, who was working up to 70 hours a week at two jobs paying $7 an hour, said he was assured welfare benefits would take effect as soon as three days after O'Connor issued his order.

But 10 days and reams of paperwork later, he still hasn't seen a dime from county welfare officials. Shelby Township Trustee Gerald Gilles provided a voucher for $150 in food from the local Kroger store, Blackburn said.

His meager savings are gone, Blackburn said, spent on court-ordered improvements to the family home. Meanwhile, if it weren't for the kindness of friends who dropped off groceries this weekend, he wouldn't have been able to feed his family.

``If it hadn't been for that, we'd have been up a creek,'' Blackburn said. Court-ordered child support payments of $68 a week from Kathy Blackburn never have been made, Dan Blackburn said.

Kris Meltzer, the attorney for the county's Office of Family and Children, said he was unaware of any problems with the Blackburns' assistance.

``The only thing that surprises me . . . is, I would have thought if there was a problem with anything, that I probably would have heard directly from'' Blackburn's attorney, Kelley Baldwin.

In the meantime, Blackburn said he waits for the benefits to begin, relying on the kindness of friends.

``I haven't got enough gas to make it back to Shelbyville,'' Blackburn said of his 1970s-model car. ``I'm . . . grounded until somebody brings me out some. That's the point we're at here.''


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