Foster parents feel the pinch in many states

Forty-eight of the fifty states are suffering severe budget problems. It appears the first they want to cut from is for youth services.

How many children are going to be left behind across the nation due to states trying to resolve their budget problems on the back of youth in greatest need of services?????

This is a recent example from Indiana as reported by two Associated Press writers on March 28, 2010.

By Carly Everson, Charles D. Wilson

updated 5:50 p.m. CT, Sun., March. 28, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana is trying to shift hundreds of foster children with medical, emotional or behavioral problems into cheaper care for children without special needs, a move that cuts payments to families who care for the state’s most challenged children.

The change would give foster families less money to pay for therapy, food and clothing and other costs. And some fear that fewer families could volunteer for the job in the future because they’d have to cover the bills themselves.

Foster parents who provide homes for special-needs children are paid up to $100 a day. Under the state’s new plan, many would receive $25 or less.

“Twenty-five bucks a day ― it’s not a lot,” said foster parent Terry Blackburn of Brownsburg, Ind., who has fostered more than 100 children with his wife, Ruth. “If you go buy a pair of shoes and a pair of pants for the kid, you’ve already spent your $25.”

The changes, made quietly without public attention, come as officials are attempting to cut $56 million from the cost of providing for the more than 10,000 children who are in the state’s care because they could not remain with their families. The Department of Child Services announced plans in late 2009 to cut payments to those who provide homes for the children by 10 percent. Overall, the cuts would reduce the state’s costs by about 8 percent by June 2011.

Many other states, including Arizona, California, Missouri, Ohio and Utah, also have cut spending on children’s services because of budget problems. Some states have reduced payments to foster homes or group facilities or considered laying off caseworkers.

‘Getting pounded’
“The states are getting pounded, and this is one of the few times I’ve seen child welfare really get hit,” said Michael Petit, president of the advocacy group Every Child Matters.

According to children’s advocates, Indiana put its new policy on special needs children into effect at the beginning of the year when it directed private agencies that specialize in finding foster homes for hard-to-place children to begin offering traditional foster care as well. Then, the state began shifting special-needs children into the lower-cost care.

Children who have special needs include pregnant teenagers, victims of sexual abuse, infants born to drug-addicted moms, those with severe medical problems or with behavioral problems that lead them to act violently.

According to placement agencies, a 1-year-old boy born with cocaine and marijuana in his system and behavioral problems was placed in traditional care at one facility. Two siblings who had been sexually abused by relatives, including an 11-year-old girl who vandalized her foster home and threatened her foster mother, also were reclassified.

The state wouldn’t say how many children have been reclassified. But one placement agency official said almost half his special-needs children were downgraded; another official said all the children at some agencies were affected.

DCS Director James W. Payne said in a Dec. 1 letter to providers that the agency had “reluctantly” ordered the 10 percent cut. Indiana’s reimbursement rate for the traditional care, which would drop from $25 to $22.50, would remain among the nation’s highest, he said. His letter did not mention shifting the special needs children.

“These have been incredibly difficult deliberations and everyone involved recognizes the magnitude of the decisions being made,” the letter said.

Cuts blocked for now
A federal judge has temporarily blocked the cuts and reclassifications after foster parents and private agencies filed suit. The state is appealing the order.

Citing the litigation, DCS spokeswoman Anne Houseworth declined to comment on the cost-cutting measures. But she said the state’s goal is to provide children the care they need while paying less when appropriate.

Foster parents and children’s advocates say if the state prevails in court and proceeds with its plan, many children who need help won’t receive it, and some won’t find homes at all.

“They can’t just lump all foster children together as one classification. It just doesn’t work,” said Judy Hurst of Carthage, Ind., who has cared for more than 300 foster children with severe needs in the last 20 years.

Hurst said she does not know how she and her husband, Denny, could continue at the lower rate.

They keep the doors locked and security cameras rolling at their house east of Indianapolis. Foster children have stolen from them or damaged their home. The Hursts currently are caring for a pregnant teenager and a boy Hurst describes as “probably the most abused child we’ve had in our 20 years.”

“We’ve devoted our whole life to other peoples’ kids,” she said. “We don’t want to stop doing this. We don’t want to stop working with kids.”

Chris Morrison, executive director of the Indiana Foster Care and Adoption Association, said foster and adoptive families can’t shoulder the costs of the special therapy needed.

“There’s this philosophy that’s trying to be promoted that you’re adopting out of love and therefore all of this should come out of your pocket. It’s not a genuine reality,” she said.

Providing family for 80-plus foster kids

Below are links to two great stories on NBC News March 30, 2010. They come from their series “Making a Difference.”

The first is about the 80 plus year old couple in Georgia who have cared for over 80 youth in foster care.

The second is from one of the youth (now 26 in graduate school)  who expresses his gratitude to the Lewis family.



I don’t know how long these will remain available on NBC but strongly suggest these short videos being viewed.

Health Care Reform Law Expands Adoption Tax Credit

This is for those who may not have been following the recent Health Care Reform debate. Because it passed this is what also became signed law this past Tuesday. This section did not make the headlines during the debate. This may be useful information for those who may be considering adoption.

Public Law 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Section 10909 of the Act extended the adoption tax credit for one more year (to December 31, 2011) and expanded the program in two ways:
  • For tax year 2010, the amount of the credit was increased from $12,170 to $13,170.
  • The credit was made refundable for all types of adoption for tax years 2010 and 2011.
Because the adoption tax credit will be refundable, families who have smaller tax liability will now be able to benefit from the credit for adoptions finalized in 2010 and 2011.
The IRS has not yet released any guidance on the change.

Brantwood Children’s Home in Montgomery Alabama Hasn’t Had A Single Adoption in Four Years

MONTGOMERY, Ala., March 12, 2010
American Foster Kids Hold Out Hope
Brantwood Children’s Home in Montgomery Alabama Hasn’t Had A Single Adoption in Four Years
By Mark Strassmann CBS News

(CBS)  The Brantwood Children’s Home in Montgomery, Ala., is a place for kids from families broken beyond repair. They’re all between 10 and 21 years old. All are available for adoption and looking for a loving home.

Will’s a fifth-grader in his seventh school. He wonders what kind of family will adopt him, and how it will happen.

Too often, it doesn’t.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports there haven’t been any adoptions at Brantwood in the past four years.

“It pierces your heart,” says Kim Herbert, the executive director of Brantwood. “That’s what we want for them.”

Adoption awareness has been heightened by the Haiti earthquake — which created thousands of new orphans. In the last eight weeks, more than 1,000 of them have come to America for adoption — more than the last three years combined.

It’s a new chance many Brantwood kids will never get.

“It’s been too long for them, and that hope is gone,” Herbert said. “They count on themselves.”

In 2008, America’s foster care system had 123,000 kids available for adoption. Just 45 percent — 55,000 — of them were adopted.

Typically the older they get, the worse their chances it will ever happen. Many children are also battling the scars of mental or physical abuse.

Many states and agencies post albums of available children.

“Meet these kids,” Herbert said, “and learn their hearts. See their needs and what they’re after.”

Jack’s after a second chance. At 13, he’s the baby in a fractured family of nine. He says he’s praying for a home of his own.

They all are praying for a family – and so far that is just a dream.

Brantwood Children’s Home

I’ll Believe It When I See It!!!!

Having grown up in the Michigan foster care system in the 50’s & 60″s and having also lived there  2004-2007 I was glad to see this article yesterday.

However I know Michigan has been making these promises since 2002 with little or no improvement in many areas. Many of the same problems I had to live with when in the system youth still have to deal with today.

I hope the Feds, if Michigan does not come through this time, will in fact take action as the youth cannot afford to allow the state to continue on the path they have been on for years.

Michigan developing plan to improve foster care

State’s child welfare system must address problems detailed in federal report in 3 years or face $2.8 million penalty
Catherine Jun / The Detroit News 3/15/09

Michigan children in foster care need to be placed in more stable homes, and the state must respond quicker when abuse or neglect is suspected, a federal report states.

These are two of several improvements the Michigan Department of Human Services must make over the next three years to its child welfare system, or face a federal penalty of $2.8 million.

The deficiencies were detailed in a 112-page report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is part of the Child and Family Services Review, a federal effort that began in 2002 to improve foster care.

According to the report, Michigan fell below federal standards in all seven categories measuring the well-being of children in foster care. No state has ever complied with all seven standards.

Michigan officials said Friday they have begun drafting an improvement plan for an April 27 deadline.

According to the report, Michigan succeeded in limiting children’s re-entry into foster care and placing children near their parents and with siblings.

The state failed, however, to meet standards in several other areas, including ensuring against repeated abuse or neglect, providing in-home services to prevent child mistreatment and expediting adoptions.

“Everything in the report we take to heart,” said Mary Mehren, director of the federal compliance division at Michigan’s Human Services Department.

She said many improvements were already under way, including offering specialized in-home support for foster children with severe emotional issues and $4 million this year for abuse and neglect prevention programs.

The report, , issued earlier this month, comes at a time when the state is overhauling its child welfare system. In 2008, the state settled a lawsuit filed by New York-based Children’s Rights, which charged the state with endangering the lives of its foster children. The state’s system serves about 19,000 children.

Michigan’s review began in April 2008 and was conducted through September 2009.

In 2002, Michigan failed to meet any of the seven standards.

Then, a $2.5 million penalty was threatened, but the state made improvements over the next several years.