Like most parents trying to make ends meet, Vivian Shine-King needs to get creative sometimes. When she has to take her four children to doctor’s appointments, for instance, she’ll make sure multiple kids are booked at the same clinic around the same time, helping her to save on gas and parking.
But Shine-King isn’t your average parent. She is foster mother to four disabled children and relies on government money to make sure they get what they need, including — crucially — health care.
“Couple of times I’ve had to park the car away and take the children in a stroller,” Shine-King said, because she didn’t have enough money for a $15 parking garage. “If you gave me 50 cents more, it’s a piece of change that matters.”
Shine-King, 61, got a little respite starting in July when Philadelphia raised its foster care per-diem rates, a daily reimbursement of expenses per child to ease financial burdens, something seen as especially crucial for disabled children because the high cost of caring for them makes it less likely they’ll ever be adopted.
Financial support for foster parents in general has lagged nationwide and is pervasive among child welfare agencies; Philadelphia is not alone in re-examining reimbursement rates. But even with the increases, parents and others say, it often isn’t enough.
Some states have a set statewide foster care reimbursement, while a few determine it county by county, with the money coming from a combination of federal and state coffers. Meanwhile, federal funding for child welfare agencies dropped 16 percent from 2004 to 2014, according to a 2017 policy report by the nonprofit research organization Child Trends.
Federal dollars fund more than half the child welfare spending in Missouri, which raised foster care reimbursements in recent years, although Gov. Eric Greitens signed a budget in June that cut rates by 1.5 percent. Greitens later said that it was a mistake and that there was enough money in savings elsewhere to stop those cuts from happening, but not officially in the budget.
Current rates do not do a good job covering costs, according to Lori Ross, who founded Foster Adopt Connect, a Missouri support organization for foster parents.
“It is about a third of what is actually spent out of pocket on taking care of a child,” Ross said. The rate “should be adequate to cover the costs of care for those kids,” she said.
Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services had an $80 million reduction in funding for the past…