An association of foster parents says it filed a lawsuit against state government today seeking more money in reimbursements for their care.
The Foster Parent Association of Washington State says the state has violated the federal Child Welfare Act by setting its payment rates to foster parents too low to cover children’s basic needs.
State lawyers have spent a lot of time in court arguing about foster care. As part of a 2004 legal settlement of the lawsuit known as the Braam case, the state has promised to make dozens of reforms, including more visits by social workers to foster homes.
Full news release from the association:
Today, the Foster Parent Association of Washington State filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court alleging that the State of Washington violates the federal Child Welfare Act by failing to reimburse foster parents for the cost of basic care provided to foster children. Specifically, Washington’s basic foster care maintenance rates do not comply with the Child Welfare Act – a federal law – because they do not cover the “cost of (and cost of providing) food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, a child’s personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to a child and reasonable travel to the child’s (biological) home for visitation and reasonable travel for the child to remain in the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement.” The federal Child Welfare Act provides reimbursement to the State for a portion of the costs associated with foster care. The scope of the lawsuit is limited. It seeks only that which foster parents, on behalf of foster children, are entitled to under federal law. Nothing more and nothing less.
The lawsuit references a national study entitled “Hitting the MARC: Establishing Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children.” According to the study, Washington’s basic foster care maintenance rates need to increase by more than 60% on average, and the rate for children from birth to 4 years old needs to increase by more than 75%, in order for the rates to reimburse foster parents for the costs of the items in the Child Welfare Act. Washington is in the bottom third of all states when it comes to reimbursing foster parents for the cost of basic care provided to foster children.
“Last night, we honored many good people at our Annual Awards Dinner “Night of 1000 Dreams,” began Beth Canfield, Co President of the Foster Parent Association of Washington State (FPAWS).
“We honored social workers, state employees and state leaders who are part of Children’s Administration and the Ombudsman for Children and Family Services. We honored foster parents, elected officials, law firms, and a camp that reunites siblings who have been separated because of the foster care system. What do these people all have in common? We are all advocates for foster children, partners in looking out for our kids,” said Canfield.
“Today, the Foster Parent Association of Washington State is here to take another giant step. We are here to take action to help foster children obtain the care that they are entitled to under federal law and to help those who volunteer 24/7 for these kids¾their foster parents¾by filing a lawsuit on their behalf.”
Canfield went on to say:
Every single day, thousands of individuals in this state prove how much they are devoted to kids who come into their care. They get up and prepare the children in their care for the day ahead and for a life better than the one from which they came. They feed them, get them to school, to the doctor, to counselors. They keep them connected to their biological families. They stand up for them when others haven’t or won’t. They hold and comfort them when the demons of their past lives come visiting. They help shoulder the emotional, physical and mental baggage accumulated from life journeys so dreadful most of us can’t even imagine. They try to build for them as normal a life as possible. Every day, in every way, they advocate for the interests of the children in their care. It is tough work. And they don’t have to do it.
They don’t have to care for lives damaged by every kind of abuse and neglect possible. But they do.
They take into their homes¾and often their hearts¾young lives torn from homes and communities, tossed about on a sea of uncertainty, confused, angry, scared, lonely and alone, often deeply troubled through no fault of their own, forsaken and forced at a young age to hope the next home they enter will provide the love and nurturing they are seeking.
Mike Canfield, Co President of FPAWS took the podium and continued:
“Foster parents are not paid for their time. They do not receive a salary or a paycheck. In fact, foster parents are required to demonstrate that they independently have sufficient money to care for their family before they can even be licensed as foster parents.
But federal law does require the State to reimburse foster care parents for the basic costs of caring for foster children. And that is what foster care maintenance payments are: they are payments made to foster parents on behalf of foster children that reimburse these volunteer parents for the costs of caring for the children. This money is for the kids, not the foster parents.”
“If you are a parent, just think of how much it costs to provide for your own children. Could you do it for what is being asked of foster parents? Keep in mind that this money is designed to build as normal a life for these children as that sought by those who raise their own children. Sometimes these children arrive at our homes with almost nothing, sometimes simply the clothes on their back.”
“Let us be clear: we are only seeking in this lawsuit that which foster children are entitled to under federal law. Nothing more, and nothing less. This lawsuit is unrelated to the current budget crisis facing our state. Rather, we went back 30 years, well before our current budget crisis. We went clear back to 1980 when Ronald Reagan was first elected President and John Spellman was Governor of our state. The reimbursement rate now ranges from $423 to $575, depending on the age of the child. Not only does the reimbursement rate paid by the State of Washington fail to reimburse for the costs required by the Child Welfare Act, but the nominal increases to the reimbursement rate do not even keep up with normal inflation.”
“We have heard about studies done in other States that show it costs more to kennel a dog than the state reimburses foster parents to care for a child. I did a little research and found that to be true. A quick check of Google for kennels in the Seattle area found the average rate for kenneling to be over $40 dollars a day. More if you wanted the dog fed and bathed! In comparison, the State reimburses foster parents from $14 to $19 a day.”
“I am a happy grandparent now with three sons and grandkid number 4 on its way. I love it so much I try to encourage my kids to have more grandkids! But, being the responsible adults that we raised, they respond, “we would if we could afford it…the cost of daycare alone is $1500 a month.”
“As foster parents we are these children’s first line advocates. We believe the way our State is treating these children is wrong. We believe that federal law entitles these children to more that what the State is providing. Reimbursing foster parents at the current rates does not allow these children to live normal lives. At FPAWS, we think this is just wrong and if the foster children of this State could be here today we believe they would say so themselves. But they can’t. So we are taking action for them.”
“In the big picture, we are talking about a few thousand kids; their voice is small; their global footprint is small. Hence they do not get the kind of attention they need by the citizens of our State. We want to change that. It is our hope and our belief that by filing this suit, we will make the lives of each of these children better.”