Privatization of Family Foster Care
Position Statement

Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children
July 1, 2001

Issue: Lack of Family Foster Care Resources in Georgia

Background:  On any given day, there are about 10,000 children in family foster care in Georgia.  For most children who enter foster care in Georgia because of abuse and neglect family foster homes are the preferred placement.  This is because most foster children thrive in an environment when the love and nurturance of a volunteer family is freely given as it commonly is in such homes.  Even though this is the preferred placement, Georgia presently finds itself about 1000 families short of the optimum number of foster homes that it needs to care properly for the children who are in its custody. Like other counties in Georgia, the counties of Fulton and Dekalb find themselves in a crisis situation because of the lack of foster homes; foster children often languish in shelters or group homes because they have no other, more appropriate, placement options.

Out of Home Placement--The Costs         

Family Foster Care--12:50 to 14.75 per day 

Institutional Foster Care--$32:20 to 80.80 per day 

Therapeutic Foster Care--$111.78 per day 

Intermediate Therapeutic Care--$101.83 to $202.31 

 Intensive Therapeutic Care--$165.00 to $308.50

The public foster care system is challenged by its limited number of foster parents. Children often falter whilst making their way through an increasingly costly and fragmented foster care system. Most counties experience some difficulty finding appropriate placements for children; this is partly because we ask foster parents to care for children at a reimbursement rate never higher than $14.75 a day. It is no wonder, then, that caseworkers count themselves lucky to find an appropriate foster home placement--because the reimbursement rate is so low, most foster parents must subsidize the State with their own resources, which creates a huge burden on family foster homes and discourages new families from their desire to become foster homes themselves.

How does Foster Care fit into the Child Welfare System? 

Without a strong foster care system, the entire child welfare system is weakened. Foster care is usually the entry point for at-risk children into the system. The State generally initiates involvement with a family when the safety and well-being of a child is at-risk. Many times, a child must be taken from the home in order to protect him/her from further harm. Foster care is the respite for the child and sometimes for the family during such a traumatic family crisis. 

Child welfare reform seeks to ensure the benefit of tying the care of the child and the family together through the foster family so that the foster family becomes an extended family to the biological family, giving support in times of need. Relationships are developed with the child as well as with the family. Community involvement, family support and preservation, and reunification, rather than family and community dissolution, become the attainable end for foster care.

Children must be seen in the context of the systems from which they come. Their families and neighborhoods shape their lives in important ways. As reform initiatives look for ways to care for children in these systems, there is a realization that a child and his family must be cared for together. The blending of foster care with the continuing support of the child's family is one method of addressing this critical issue.

Children cannot be cared for as if they were autos to be repaired, shifted from shop to shop, in the hopes that one will find a fix at some distant point. Children must be cared for in the context of family and community who are personally invested in the child’s welfare. When foster care was taken out of the volunteer sector venue, an important tool was taken from our communities: foster care is one essential element of the community-based continuum of services linking children within family and community. The State's support of the ancillary services provided by private child placing agencies will do much to keep this powerful tool within their grasp.

To accentuate further an already critical situation, the State has estranged itself from a large source of foster homes because the State has a policy of not reimbursing the supporting network of community-based private foster care agencies. The services that private foster care agencies provide to support the care of children, such as recruitment, training, support, administration, and respite care, are not reimbursed at all. Those agencies that are licensed to provide private foster care for the State's children are reimbursed only for the per diem of foster parents, or $14.75 per day.  Fewer than 200 children are in private foster care agencies.

These agencies could provide hundreds of desperately needed foster parents if the State would provide them with the resources to care adequately for these children. Our largest private foster care agency is Georgia AGAPE; they care for over 50 children in Fulton and Dekalb Counties. Georgia AGAPE is a charitable arm of the Churches of Christ while the Church of Christ is one of the smallest religious constituencies in the State. One has to wonder what would happen if some of our largest charitable constituencies supported the State in foster care. We certainly would not have a foster care crisis.

Benefits of Supporting Community-Based
Child-Placing Agencies

1. More Providers--With proper incentives to provide services, more volunteer constituencies will desire to contribute to their communities through the provision of foster care. Presently there are over 40 licensed private foster care placement agencies in the state. Most of these agencies, however, provide adoption services, not foster care. Most have only a few foster families. The costs and liabilities are too great for agencies to recruit foster families aggressively without support from the State.

2. More levels of care--On a cost basis, any number of levels of care and services can be provided depending on the needs of a child and family. These can be defined by contract to address individual needs of the child and family.

3. Higher quality foster care--With more foster families, the best and the brightest foster families could be identified and utilized, rather than simply placing a child in the first available home without regard for the child’s needs or the family’s strengths.

4. Public/private partnership--Communities will own the solutions as well as the problems found in the present system.

The State has not allowed the volunteer community-based constituencies of the State to join them as partners in foster care. An example of a state which does that is Illinois, which has a foster care population similar to Georgia’s;  however seventy percent (70%) of the children are cared for by the volunteer sector. Other examples of utilizing the volunteer sector to provide foster care are in the following states: Colorado 30%, Indiana 20%,Pennsylvania 80%, D.C. 25%, Michigan 66%, and Maryland 25%. These states have realized that the volunteer sector can be a valuable resource for addressing their foster care needs. In the face of those states’ success, it is shocking to discover that Georgia’s utilization of the volunteer sector for the recruitment, training, and support of foster parenting is less than one percent (1%).   

Policy Recommendation:

1.      Reimburse Private Child-Placing Agencies for the provision of family foster care services. Through Georgia's policies, the public sector must facilitate families, individuals and communities to take responsibility for homeless, neglected, and abused youth. Encouraging and supporting our volunteer constituencies in caring for our children who need out-of-home care can accomplish this.

2.      Utilize the present Institution Foster Care Reimbursement System--Institutional Foster Care Providers represents community-based agencies that provide services for children who are at risk of out-of-home care.  Most provide group home care, often called a children's home, orphans’ home or emergency shelter.  Some are licensed to provide child-placing services or foster home services.  If a group home chooses to provide foster care services they can relatively easily place this service on their license with their group home care.  IFC's are reimbursed at 62% of cost.  Their foster care services are reimbursed only at the $14.75 rate.  This rate is much too low for most agencies to provide this service to the state.

 

How the Reimbusement would Look.        

WeCare Agency would provide:

40 children in group home children care @ $50.00 per day 
20 children in foster care @ $50.00 per day 
-----
60 children in care

Cost would be figured on the total 60 children @ 62% of cost.

The resources of the agency would be spread over the total number of children in care.