Thursday, June 18, 2009

Foster care children at risk

By Hilary Russell
If July 1 turns into a "doomsday" for state-funded human services, thousands of children in foster care could lose their homes within three months, according to the Childcare Association of Illinois.

advocacy group organized a standing-room only rally today in Chicago's James R. Thompson Center to propose severe funding cuts and to encourage lawmakers to find a better way to balance an out-of-whack state budget. Democrats approved a so-called bare bones budget May 31 that would fund human services at half the level proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn, who said he does not intend to sign the budget into law because it carries a $9.2 billion deficit and would require devastating cuts to services for the most vulnerable citizens.

The Childcare Association of Illinois said that within 90 days of the proposed budget taking effect, monthly state payments to foster parents would be cut in half.
CORRECTION: The state currently pays $384 per foster child in a home. When the fiscal year begins July 1, that payment would reduce to $192. Caretakers described the decrease as drastic and said it could require families to return the foster children to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Rhonda Hansen, who raises four foster children between ages 4 and 7, faces that possibility. She attended the rally and later said in a phone interview that she not only couldn't afford to care for the children on her part-time wages of $800 a month, but she also couldn't keep working if she lost her childcare services through DCFS.

Foster children cannot be left with a friend or relative unless the individual has gone through a background check and been approved by DCFS, she said.

She added that she worries about what would happen to the children if she gave them up. For instance, two of the children were removed from their original home, Hansen said, after findings of severe neglect and physical abuse by their mother, who is now serving time in prison. They also were removed from a second foster home because, she said, relatives also neglected them. They are both in therapy, another service Hansen said they stand to lose if the budget isn't changed.

“I can't bear thinking about making that call to someone telling them to come get them,” she said.

If Quinn signed the budget as approved by Democrats, about 9,000 foster parents could be affected, according to David Ormsby of the Childcare Association of Illinois.

Gladys Boyd, president of the association and a foster parent in Richton Park, said she, too, would have to return her children to DCFS if the state cuts reimbursement levels.

"These politicians should be ashamed of themselves," she said. "Completely ashamed."

The governor and legislative leaders have been meeting behind closed doors since June 1. Lawmakers are scheduled return to Springfield for a special session Tuesday, seven days before the new fiscal year starts without a budget in place. Quinn's goal is to approve a state income tax increase to avoid cutting or eliminating funding to human services. However, legislative leaders said yesterday that there doesn't appear to be enough support for an income tax increase as early as next week.

This is not the first time DCFS has experienced massive cuts. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the state's child welfare system was in chaos, Ormsby said. More than 50,000 children were in the system at that time, which prompted the state to house them in welfare agencies, where they slept on cots.

Today, there are about 16,000 foster care children in the system. Ormsby said more than half of them could face the same fate.

“This time, with so many cuts, they will be drawing out the pool of foster care parents to some degree,” he said. “Many of the agencies themselves will simply go out of business because of the enormity of the cuts.”



Here are a few, very simple concepts many state governments and their representative quasi-governmental institutions fail to grasp:

(1) Poverty is considered to be the crime of abuse and neglect. Many times the only way a family can access services, such as medical coverage for the child, if for a case of abuse and neglect to be assigned.

(2) There is no accountability nor transparency in the oversight of the child welfare system which means there are no internal controls. Waste, abuse and fraud runs rampant within the system.

(3)The best way of reducing the number of children in the system is to stop taking them from their families. Provide services.

(4) Hold these top-heavy local governments accountable by forcing them to reduce their administration budgets.

Beverly Tran

Anonymous said...

(3)The best way of reducing the number of children in the system is to stop taking them from their families. Provide services.
In southern Illinois where I am a foster parent. Services are available to any families with children at risk. Many parents refuse to take advantage of these services and continue to abuse drugs and alcohol while neglecting and often abusing the children. You can not blame the DCFS workers for trying to protect the kids. Being a low population area we know our investigators and case load workers by sight. They do the best they can and are very understaffed. I can say nothing about how things are elsewhere but here they do not take kids needlessly.

Rhonda Hansen said...

I am the foster parent of the 4 children mentioned above. All of my children attend summer camp. I was just informed this morning that we have lost our daycare assistance as of July 1. This means several things to my kids and I.

One they will no longer be able to attend a learning environment. They will now be at home or at a family members where there will be no curriculum. Three of these children had never attended school before and this has become an integral part of their schedule. They are reaping the benefits of the classroom; counting, songs, ABC's and how to interact with other children.

Two I will no longer be able to work my job without childcare. What I make is minimal yet necessary to survive each month. They are removing a service that is so important to not just myself but to other families. How are we to work?

Three the agency I am with is trying to work out a schedule to assist with childcare. However, there are 20 kids that are affected by this cut. There is no budget for this and they are doing the best they can under these difficult circumstances.

Another service that will be cut soon is therapy. This too is a much needed service supplied to our children (and yes they are everyone's children). Without the proper support to adjust to new situations the losses that they are going to continue to suffer will become overwhelming.

Please talk to your representative and insist that the budget gets approved. These children already suffer enough loss in their young lives. Now they are losing the stability and support that they come to depend on.

Anonymous said...

With all the drugging of foster care children in Illinois. And abuse in some of the foster care homes i truly hope they return some of these kids home. Abuse in the foster care homes goes unnoticed i belive the people who are suppose to ivestage the homes these kids live in turn a blind eye to it because they see dollar signs.The longer they keep kids in the sytem the more money the goverment gives. I think they should make some cuts and return some of the kids home.