Monday, May 2, 2011

Arizona Daily Star: Foster Care System in Crisis

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Patti Machelor had an important story in Sunday's Arizona Daily Star about kids in foster care.

The number of abused and neglected children in state care has nearly doubled in Pima County over the past decade—even as funding to help them has dropped precipitously and the number of foster homes declined.

Statewide and locally, it is becoming more difficult to place children removed from their homes with families where they can experience some normalcy.

Caseworkers are trying harder to place children with relatives, but it's not a simple solution. Tracking down extended family who might help can be challenging, and resources are scant. Group homes and shelters, meant to offer a temporary reprieve, are becoming long-term housing for many older children, sibling groups and teens.

A depressing roundup of the cuts:

• Emergency clothing allowance: reduced from $300 per child annually to $150.

• Extra emergency clothing allowance - given only in an extreme circumstance such as a fire: reduced from $200 per child annually to $100.

• Books and education allowance: reduced from $165 per school-age child annually to $82.50.

• Special needs allowance (used to supplement expenditures for a vacation, birthdays or a special holiday): reduced from $45 per child annually to $22.50.

• Diaper allowance for disabled children over age 3: reduced from $125 per child per month to $62.50.

• Camp and vacation allowance: suspended.

• Foster care maintenance payment: cut by 20 percent. Foster families now receive $19.68 per day per child as well as 53 cents for clothing and 10 cents for a child's personal allowance. Children under age 3 get a diaper allowance of 95 cents per day and children under age 1 get $2.10 per day for diapers and formula. (If the child needs a higher level of care - there are three levels - the maintenance payment increases by increments of $3.84 per day).

Seriously: We can't afford more than $22.50 to help a foster kid have a happy birthday or a merry Christmas? But hey: The budget was balanced in record time.

Remember these kids when lawmakers talk about how they cut back on wasteful spending.

(Arizona Daily Star]

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