My Letter to Senator Dubas

January 20, 2011



Senator Annette Dubas
34th Legislative District
Nebraska State Capitol
P.O. Box 94604
Room 1018
Lincoln, NE 68509

Dear Senator Dubas:

Thank you for taking the time to listen to the concerns of foster parents regarding the payments that they receive for the services they provide. I have several concerns regarding the payments that foster parents receive. I'm not sure that we will have time to discuss all of them in our meeting, so I have laid out my concerns here.

First and most importantly, I feel that the reimbursement provided for Level One children ($12 per day) is not sufficient to provide for their needs. With this money we are required to provide transportation to and from school and other activities, clothing, food, hair cuts, entertainment for the children, plus the additional expenses associated with running a home with more children living in it. My husband and I already owned a 4-door vehicle, however with laws governing safety seat locations and positions, coupled with minimum age laws regarding younger passengers and air bags, we had no other option but to purchase a mini van to accommodate the children that we care for. While we do not expect the State to cover our expenses for that purchase; it is just an example of the expenses that foster parents must incur in order to provide adequate services to the children in their care.

Take transportation, for example. We live in the ______ school district, and we have an eleven-year-old foster son that has been placed with us since June 2010. His biological mom selected the school that he attends since she retains education rights. The school that she chose for him to go to is ____ Middle School, which is nearly 10 miles from our home, and busing is not an option for us. This results in us driving approximately 180 miles per week to transport him to and from his school. The cost of gas alone to get him to and from school at $3 per gallon is approximately $27 per week. So out of the $84 per week that we receive from the State to provide care for this child, nearly 1/3 of it simply goes to get him to and from school. This does not include the cost of gas to take him to things like school programs, sports practices and games, etc.; not to mention the cost of enrolling him in these programs in the first place, as well as additional wear and tear on our vehicles as the result of increased use.

Small children pose different financial challenges. First there is the matter of clothing, which has to be replaced every season and sometimes more than once in a season due to their rapid growth. Then you add on top of that car seats (which sometimes need to be replaced due to child growth or the expiration of car seats), toys that stimulate their mind and development which are outgrown as they grow, plus supplies such as cribs, bottles, diapers, potty training equipment, high chairs, booster seats, little spoons and forks, sippy cups, etc.

My husband and I are self-employed, with my husband working full-time and me working part-time. I am sure our situation is not unique in the fact that we must occasionally take time off of work (or turn away work) in order to attend court hearings, meet with Service Coordinators, our Cedars worker, the Caseworker, Guardian ad Litems, police officers, and others who are involved in our children's cases. All of our children are involved in the same case; I cannot even imagine the burden of having children from more than one family, where the number of people that the foster parents deal with on a weekly, if not daily basis is doubled due to different Caseworkers, GALs, etc. In addition to the expenses incurred with caring for foster children, we spend a lot of time corresponding with all of these people and documenting everything that goes on in the children's case.

Twelve dollars per day is a flat reimbursement for Level 1 children. The level of reimbursement is based upon the children's behaviors or special needs and their comparison to other “normal” children their age. Even though the needs and difficulties of a baby or toddler may be more complex than the needs of a five-year old, the reimbursement is the same. As I'm sure you can see, $12 per day is spent very quickly. My husband and I are blessed to earn more money than we spend, so we are able to make up the deficit in the State's funding; however, I have to wonder if other potential foster parents are deterred from serving and providing much-needed homes for these children due simply to the fact that they are not able to afford to provide care.

Some solutions that I have thought of are: a) Raise the reimbursement rate for all Level 1 children, and/or b) Raise the reimbursement rate for children of certain ages that require additional expenses.

The second matter I would like to submit for your consideration is the up-front expense of adding a child to the home. We went from being a young couple with no children to being a young couple with three children in the matter of two weeks. We were very, very blessed to have a dear friend who did a sort of drive for us and she was able to obtain a crib, car seats, and a few toys for us, as we had absolutely nothing. There was very little time to prepare for these children coming into our home. The up front cost to us was still fairly large; however, we had to wait until the end of the month to receive the initial reimbursement. One of our children was placed with us the first day of the month so we waited an entire month to receive any reimbursement for him. In the meantime, we incurred expenses from the first day they arrived.

A solution for this problem would be to provide an up-front per child bonus, especially for families that are accepting a foster child (or children) into their home for the first time.

Lastly, while the State pays foster parents $12 per day to provide 24-hour foster care, the State also pays daycare providers $25 per day to provide daycare for these same foster children. This payment is for providing care for more than 5 hours and 45 minutes each day. Prior to our one-year-old and two-year-old moving in with us, they were going to daycare five days a week for eleven to twelve hours each day. Our one-year-old was placed in the family of a woman who ran an in-home daycare; however, due to state payment rules he had to go to a different daycare. She would wake him at 6 a.m. and take him to a different daycare, and pick him up in the evening after all of the other children she provided daycare for had gone home. These boys were so sleep deprived; even now six months later they are sleeping twelve to thirteen hours per night plus taking naps every afternoon. They were almost like zombies because they were getting so little sleep.

There are several problems I see with the way that this is set up. First, the State provides absolutely no incentive for an in-home daycare provider to keep a foster child in their home with them. Because of the adult-to-child-ratio rules, in-home daycare providers are only allowed to have a certain number of children in their care. If they were to choose to keep their foster child at home with them, they would receive no additional money from the state and they would also lose income, due to being able to take one less child from a paying client. For a person that is relying upon their daycare income for survival, it would be a clear choice to send the foster child to a different daycare so that the foster parent can continue to earn the same income. In the meantime the child may suffer due to lack of sleep, as I have previously mentioned, as well as a lack of attachment to the foster parent.

Attachment is a very serious problem among foster children. Many times they have not been provided adequate care at their biological home, and suffer attachment disorders which can have long-term effects on behaviors and the outcome of their entire lives. Attachments are formed by children's needs being met in a timely manner by the same person (among other things). It is a very serious need for children to develop attachments. I feel that it is no wonder that 50% of people in prisons are former wards of the state. These children are sometimes bounced around from home to home, not to mention the difficulties they experienced in their biological home. I believe the State should do everything in its power to facilitate attachment, which is formed before the child is three years old. My belief is that more funding in this area will lead to fewer people in the prison system and on welfare, thus saving the State money in the long run. Currently, the State does nothing (that I am aware of) in the form of funding to facilitate attachment.

My husband and I have made the decision that I will stay home from work to be with the little boys. Initially, I quit my job outside the home so that I could spend more time helping my husband with his job; however that has been placed on the back burner because of me staying home with the children. I do things like take them to the Children's Museum, set up play dates with other children, work on their motor skills, play with them, read to them, do crafts with them, work with them on learning sign language and letters and colors, and yet I still receive only $12 per day. I feel that I provide care equal to the care provided by a day care, and that it is better for them to stay home with me where they can become attached instead of having multiple people caring for them, in addition to all of the other people in their lives such as the Caseworker, transport providers, etc, not to mention the amount of time they spend idle in a car being transported to a day care provider. They have literally grown leaps and bounds by receiving one-on-one attention from me and everyone involved in the case agrees. I receive the same payment for doing this as their previous families, who sent them to daycare for eleven and twelve hours per day. The expense of the activities that we do, in addition to the expense of providing lunch and snack times, is not taken into consideration when the State reimburses us. To think that if I wanted to I could send them somewhere for 12 hours a day and still receive the same amount of pay and also earn a “real” paycheck is preposterous.

I feel there are several solutions to this problem: a) If a foster care provider is an in-home daycare provider, they should be reimbursed at the same rate if they choose to keep their foster children in their daycare, rather than sending them somewhere else. The State is not out any money in this proposal; but the children would definitely benefit. The State will either pay the foster parent $25 per day or they will pay another provider $25 per day. b) For a foster parent who chooses to stay home with their young foster children but is not otherwise a daycare provider, increase the rate of pay for workdays. One idea would be to increase it by $13.50 per week day – this is the rate that license-exempt homes are paid to provide care for foster children. c) Perhaps there could also be some kind of a benefit for foster parents who use only minimum child care (i.e., perhaps an additional reimbursement for foster parents that allow their foster children to remain in daycare no longer than 8 or 9 hours per day). d) There could also be a reimbursement for foster parents that provide services for their foster children (taking them to doctor's appointments and to school rather than relying upon another worker in the case to do so, etc.).

My goal is not to make foster parenting into a money-making venture, but it would be nice if the State could at least cover the expenses of the foster parents. We have chosen to do this because we love children, and we want to be a help to our community and to our society in general. We would do it regardless of the reimbursement; but again this is only because we can afford to make up for the State's lack of funding. However, in the current system, the children are the ones that will always suffer. They have more needs and require much more time and work than most “normal” children. The reimbursement is $4,380 per year, per child. I think if you asked most families with children if they could provide care for their children on that amount per year, they would laugh you out of the room.

Thank you for taking the time to meet with foster parents and for reading this rather lengthy letter. Foster parents are often the last people consulted, but I feel they have a very unique perspective on everything from the requirements put on biological parents, the privatization of the state foster care system, and the adequacy of the reimbursement for providing foster care. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact me by phone at (phone) or via email at (email).

Sincerely,



Me

Comments

  1. Very, very well said Brynn! I hope they are listening :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. NICE!
    love the solutions too!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Well, here we are again

Glasses!

How quickly plans change