Thursday, May 21, 2009

Utah's Children

This letter was written by a Foster Parent...I think it is powerful.
Please contact your state representative and let them know it isn't ok to cut funds for Utah's Children.


Upon hearing Duane Betournay (the state director of DCFS) speak about the budget cuts that the legislature had mandated this year, I felt that I needed to educate my local representative about how that would affect me as a foster parent and my foster children. The following is the letter I sent him - he did respond in a very positive manner and is committed to helping us. However, he is only one! Please contact your representatives and help to educate them!

May 6, 2009

Dear Representative Ferry –

I am a foster parent in Box Elder County. I am also the support group facilitator for foster parents in the county. It has come to my attention that you sit on the Health and Human Services Appropriations Sub-Committee. I realize that would be a very difficult job in these times when the economy is struggling and it is necessary to make cuts.

I also realize that there are many places that can be cut and some areas that are already trying to be effective on the little money that is allocated. One of these areas is foster care. I was hoping to take a few minutes of your time to help you to understand the items that foster parents pay for out of their reimbursement from the state.

A foster child is required by law to have a bedroom area of 80 sq feet. With the average mortgage payment and home size right now – that equals a daily room rate of approximately $1.50.

3 meals per day + snacks averages out to be approximately $5 per day – more if you have older children, less if you have younger children

Utilities – one individual’s share of utilities in my home is approximately $1.30 per day

Clothing allowance ($42/month as dictated by state statute) $1.40 per day

Diapers and diapering supplies for younger children $2 per day

Gas/car insurance etc for non reimbursed mileage $1.75 per day

Household items used (shampoo, soap, toilet paper, laundry soap, etc) $1.25 per day

Already the total is $14.20 per day and we haven’t even touched on items like birthday gifts for the children; any gifts that they want to give to their biological families; unexpected expenses; medical costs for our family as a result of foster children behaviors (stitches, broken bones, etc); babysitting costs for our children as we run to court, medical appointments, team meetings, etc; for the foster children; damage to our homes (holes in walls, etc) and any unforeseen costs that come with raising a child.

The total reimbursement we receive as of right now is $15.50 per day and that amount is getting cut in July and cut again next July.

Food and household goods continue to rise in price. Gas fluctuates but we haven’t had a substantial raise in mileage reimbursements for a few years and still are not at the federal level.

I have had children come into my home literally with only the clothes on their back. The state does give us $150 to buy clothing once for these kids but when you are starting with nothing, that does not go far and we always end up supplementing with our own money. The price of clothing is going up as well, and trust me, we are frugal shoppers – we have to be! But what about toys, books, pillows, blankets? Those come out of our pocket. What about when our family goes out to the movie or to dinner to celebrate something? Do we leave the foster child home because the reimbursement we receive just doesn’t cover things like that? NO! While a child is in our home they are treated as our own, even if we can’t afford it. And with the reimbursements not even covering the necessities, most of us can’t afford the extras. If reimbursement rates are cut, you will find a decreasing number of foster parents willing to take the state’s children. While we love them and love what we are doing, many of us scrape by just trying to make a living for our own biological families. This recession has touched all of us. Our jobs and hours are being cut – our benefits are going up while the pay stays stagnant or decreases.

Please consider the faces of foster care before you finalize these rate cuts: (names have been changed to protect privacy but the children are very real – I have held them, loved them and cared for them)

Brek – He was held in his parents arms while they beat each other with baseball bats to unconsciousness and still suffers (3 years later) from impulse control, aggression and attachment issues.

Mailey – Was born severely drug addicted and spent her first Christmas at Primary Children’s Hospital suffering from heroin withdrawals

Brooks – Was shaken so severely by his parents that his retinas hemorrhaged and he required brain surgery to drain fluids and blood from his brain. He will deal with cerebral palsy from the incident for his entire life. He was 7 months old when we got him, weighing in at 9 pounds.

Dee – Was so neglected by his drug using mother that at age 3 he didn’t know that you slept in a bed. He also licked his dishes clean so he could use them for the next meal. He had never lived in a home for anything more than a few weeks as his parents moved from one party house to another. He was terrified of closed doors because he would be locked in rooms for hours at a time while his parents did drugs.

Cam – He was thrown against the wall when he was 11 months old. His skull was fractured. When we picked him up from Primary Children’s he weighed 15 lbs at 11 months old.

Spring – Her dad called DCFS on Christmas Eve morning to have them come and pick her up. All of her belongings were in garbage sacks on the porch. She was 10. She had some issues and they just couldn’t handle her anymore. She had her first real Christmas at our house.

Beth – Her parents didn’t realize her mom was in labor and she was born into a toilet and flushed. She is blind, deaf, fed by a tube and is considered to be a “brain stem” baby.

Mylie – She was born to a mom who used meth her entire pregnancy. Mylie suffered 2 bouts of withdrawals, the most severe at 3 and 4 months when she screamed and pulled her hair out by the handfuls. She will most likely have learning disabilities when she enters school.

Maybe these cases sound severe to you but these are the children that we have had in our home (and we only take kids that are labeled as “basic”) in the past 4 years. Some of these children we have had the privilege to adopt, the others have since moved on to family placements.

Remember – these are children, not just cases or files. They are the STATE’S children! People pay more for their dogs to be boarded for a day than the foster parents get reimbursed for the care of a CHILD from the state! If your children (heaven forbid) were in foster care, how would you want them to be provided for? Would you want just their basic needs to be partially taken care of or would you want them to have a real life in a real family?

As a foster parent in YOUR district, I am pleading with you to remember what we do and why we do it next time you are faced with the decision of where to cut spending or where to increase it.


Jennifer Gardner


Kirsten said...


Savannah said...

I hope this letter gets lots of attention and that thousands more like it are sent out. The state needs to open their eyes and help these children and these families. A budget cut won't make things better for Utah, it will make things worse.