The Casey Family Program organized their fourth annual kick-off for foster care month at the state capitol last Tuesday in an effort to draw awareness to budget cuts and issues and improvements for foster children.
Foster care month is a national effort in May to draw attention to kids and care.
“It happens nationally, and there are lots of activities in California and a variety of foster care kickoff activities, including a foster care youth summit this year,” said Miryam Choca, senior director of strategic consulting at Casey Family Programs.
The statewide kickoff included several other activities, such as an ice cream social and legislative office visits.
“We wanted to create space for more important reforms for the county,” said Erin Saberi, with communications and public affairs for Casey Family programs in California. “We know when the budget cuts hit, the first things to go is innovative work to do things.”
Although foster care has improved, budget cuts can affect children.
“We’ve made so much progress, and part of the message was ‘let’s continue on the path we are on and not go backwards,'” Saberi said. “It’s a time for a lot of good thinking and continuing the trend for families and kids.”
Even though the there was a 5 percent rate increase for families caring for foster children, the governor is proposing a 10 percent across-the-board cut in state services because of the budget deficit. As a result, foster care budgets will be cut by $82 million, said Carroll Schroeder, the executive director of California Alliance of Child and Family Services.
“What that means is that because foster care hasn’t had any increases since 2001, it’s more than a 10 percent cut because it’s falling behind every year,” he said. “We’re not paying enough for good enough care.”
California may plan to raise wages for prison guards, which may add up to over $260 million, Schroeder said.
“[Advocates] are saying to forgo increasing the wages for prison guards and take that money to avoid foster care cuts,” he said.
There are fewer qualified staff and foster parents because of the budget cuts.
“In April, we had a group of foster parents testify,” Schroeder said. “They were saying that they adopted kids out of the foster care systems and weren’t able to afford [taking care of them].”
Most of the funds are used on psychological counseling. However, the longer a child is in the system, the odds of ending up homeless or going to jail increase, Saberi said.
“The longer the kids stay in the system, the worse their outcomes will be for their rest of their lives,” she said. “[They are] pretty much without a connection and without a community after a very traumatic childhood from multiple school settings.”
Advocates stress the importance of foster care month.
“It’s about reorienting the emphasis that every child needs a loving, supporting family,” Saberi said.
For more information, visit fostercaremonth.org.
JANET HUNG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.