Beall Addresses Woeful Shortage Of Foster Caregivers
At a time when California lawmakers are making reforms in the foster care system, the state is facing a crisis in the shortage of the very families who are able to care for foster children. This statewide crisis affects children in every county, some of which cite a 45% to 50% decline in the number of homes for foster children in recent years. Key barriers include foster care rates that have been frozen for the last six years and issues surrounding the level of support that families need from agencies to help care for foster youth. Foster care rates are 23 % lower than they were in 2000.
"California pays less to care for a foster child than the average kennel charges to board and feed a dog," decried Assembly Member Beall. "Kennels charge an average of $620 per month to care for a dog, compared to the average cost of $494 per month for basic board and care for a foster child."
In addition to foster care rates, more efforts must be made to recruit and retain licensed foster families. A broader range of services for caregiver families is essential for the recruitment and retention of these families. The consequences of too few and inadequately supported caregivers mean that many sibling groups are not able to be placed together, children are forced to go through multiple placements and children are placed unnecessarily in much more expensive institutional care.
"AB 324 facilitates the recruitment and retention of quality foster caregivers, creating a stable environment for children while in care and creating greater opportunities for permanence," stated Beall.
Specifically, AB 324 will do two things: 1) Increase basic foster caregiver rates by 5%, effective January 1, 2008, and adjust those rates by the California Necessities Index through 2011-2012; and 2) Create a Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruitment and Retention Program administered by the Department of Social Services to provide an array of services for foster family caregivers and to provide for additional caregiver recruitment campaigns.
Research shows that children with multiple placements are more likely to incur higher mental health costs related to greater child hostility and behavioral problems. Children in less stable placements are also more likely to have higher medical costs in general.
On May 22, 2007, Assembly Member Beall will join foster parents, the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA), Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting (LAPP), and, the Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), in their release of two reports that document the current crisis in the shortage of caregivers for foster children and youth. The reports detail the relationship between the shortage of licensed caregivers and the need to 1) raise the monthly foster care rate, and 2) provide resources for recruitment, retention and supports such as respite care for family caregivers, as proposed in AB 324.