Foster Parents Suing State for More Money

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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. 

The group says Washington’s basic foster care maintenance rates do not comply with the Child Welfare Act 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.”

“It starts out as something you do and as the years go by and the kids come and go it's not what you do it's what you are," says Sheri Novak.

For the last 30 years, Novak has raised more than 100 foster kids.  It's a commitment that's not cheap.  

“Food is more expensive, clothes and activities.  They want to go to movies, they want to go skating.  To bring them up to a normal level is expensive," says Novak.

Right now, Sheri is fostering three kids and gets about 15 dollars a day for each.

"Our fear is that it's becoming to the point where people can't afford to take in a child.  We have a scary shortage of foster homes," says Beth Canfield with the Foster Parent Association of Washington.

So the group is taking action, suing the state of Washington.  The suit claims the reimbursement is 60 to 75% lower than the mandate laid out in the Federal Child Welfare Act.  It's a rate the plaintiffs say just doesn't make sense.

"I went to King County and looked at the cost of kenneling your dog.  The average site I found was $45 a day," says Mike Canfield, Co-President of FPAW.

The parents understand the state is in a budget crisis, but say this should be a priority.

“There are a ton of issues with the state's financial problems but this lawsuit is not about that.  We see the kids as belonging to the community, to the state, to all of us and we all have to shoulder that burden," says Canfield.

We spoke the Department of Social and Health Services about the lawsuit Wednesday.  They said it was too premature to comment. 

The foster group is hopeful based on the outcome of a similar lawsuit in California.  In August 2010, the Ninth District Court of Appeals ruled the state of California had to increase its payments to foster parents by 40%. 

The Washington 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.” 

On Q13 FOX News Wednesday at 9:00 and 10:00 hear from a Tacoma foster mom about how tough it is to make ends meet.

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