Thursday, January 31, 2008

What the *&@%* are they thinking?

Okay, I know that's a bit of a drastic title. But I am just livid. Let me explain. I work part-time at a local foster care agency. I have worked in this field for about 5 1/2 years. I know that foster parents have one of the hardest jobs out there. They care for some of the most neglected, abused, abandoned children in our communities. They sacrifice a normal life for themselves and their biological children in order to serve the children who have had so many difficult experiences.

But that is not what I am upset about. I'm upset at Govenor Baldacci and the DHHS who are proposing DRASTIC cuts to the foster care and adoptive families. The state has a budget shortfall - I understand that. I also understand that there are a lot of ways to cut the budget, such as adminstratively and through unnecessary programs. But what the state is planning to do is to cut foster care reimbursement rates by 30%! Not to mention that they have already cut the respite and rec funds that took effect immediately.

Unfortunately, the state doesn't seem to recognize that cutting foster parent's reimbursement rates is going to do several things:

  1. Foster parents will either not take new placements and/or have to relinquish their current placements. This is not because foster parents are "in it for the money". It is because it requires money to support these children, many of whom have several mental and physical health issues related to their previous histories of abuse and neglect.
  2. As a result of the first event, more and more children will end up in residential, hospitalization, on the streets, or in correctional facilities. That, in the end, will cost the state hundreds of thousands of more dollars. The state says they will utilize kinship families more as well as "continue to support foster families" in ways other than financially. This falls on deaf ears when foster parents are experiencing the second cut within the past 4 years.
  3. Children who do remain in foster homes will have less support and intervention since many foster parents who currently stay at home to take care of these children will have to go get a full time job to survive. That means that the children will end up in day care and other places that really can't meet their needs. The foster parents are highly skilled, trained individuals who give so much of their lives for these children. So now, they are going to have to go out, get a job, and only be able to work with the children 2-3 hours in the evening instead of being available whenever the children need them. (Note: most of these foster families have one parent working while the other parent stays at home with the children due to the number of appointments and services the children have).
Even if you are not involved in foster care yourself, you probably know someone who has been a foster parent or who has adopted a child. These cuts are also affecting people who have adopted and received an adoption subsidy. They signed a contract with the state and now the state is changing that contract by lowering the subsidy. I encourage everyone to speak up and contact the state legislators who will be voting on this budget soon. Tomorrow there is a hearing at the State House and there will be testimony from foster parents and others involved in this situation. But the more people speak up and write to the decision makers, the more chance we have of making a change to this ridiculous budget proposal.


Sarah said...

It is preposterous! I really enjoyed talking about your work and hearing about all of this over dinner with you guys. It was interesting and informative but certainly outraging!