Responsibility for the care and safety of children rests primarily with biological or adoptive parents. However, sometimes concerns about abuse and neglect arise removing children from their homes is the best way to keep them safe.
Studies show that where children are placed is directly related to the outcomes children experience, so child welfare agencies seek to place children in the most family-like settings available. These placements are preferably with relatives and family friends (kin), but can also be in traditional foster homes.
Every state offers assistance to caregivers who welcome a child from the foster care system into their homes. While different states use different terminology (common terms include “foster care payment,” “foster care reimbursement,” and “foster care subsidy”), the effect is the same: each month, the child welfare agency sends caregivers a predetermined amount of money to care for the children placed in their homes. This amount is usually based on the child’s age, medical needs and behaviors.
In 2007, ChildrensRights.org, in conjunction with the National Foster and Adoptive Parent Association and the University of Maryland School of Social Work, released Hitting the M.A.R.C.: Establishing Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children, a technical report that compares the reimbursement rates received by foster parents to the calculated real cost of caring for a child in foster care. The researchers found that foster care rates needed to increase about 36% in order to meet the minimum rate calculated in the report.
Individual states have complete discretion in setting their foster care rates. At the time of the report, Nebraska monthly rate was approximately $230, compared to about $870 in Washington, D.C. (Differences in the cost of living and individual state policies regarding separate reimbursements for certain expenses may account for some of the variance.)
Throughout the year, we have highlighted some of the measures taken by DHHS and the Legislature to improve the outcomes for children and youth in foster care. Some of these measures include changes to reimbursement including:
- Beginning to implement the USDA foster care reimbursement rates to ensure that all foster caregivers (relatives, kin, and traditional foster parents) are at least reimbursed at a base rate that covers the actual cost to care for a foster child. (Full implementation will occur on July 1, 2014.)
- The Legislature passed LB 530, which reauthorized the Foster Care Reimbursement Rate Committee to make recommendations to DHHS regarding the reimbursement rate structure, adoption subsidies, and the statewide level of care assessment.
The Foster Care Reimbursement Rate Committee has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 1-4 pm at the Airport Country Inn & Suites in Lincoln where you can learn more or share your thoughts.
Have thoughts on the foster care reimbursement rate? Share them in the comments below.