Proposal for compensating some foster care parents concerns Butler County officials

Butler County officials have concerns about a new state allocation to pay kinship foster parents because most won't be eligible for the money. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

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Butler County officials have concerns about a new state allocation to pay kinship foster parents because most won't be eligible for the money. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

A proposed compensation plan for relatives caring for children who have been removed from their biological parents’ custody may not help many families in Butler County.

In 2017 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled those relatives must be compensated. Ohio did not comply until late last year after the state was sued again in November.

The legislature passed a law that allows for kinship caregivers to receive $10.20 per child for day for up to nine months — for a total of $2,750 — or whenever they might be certified as foster parents. However, Butler County Job and Family Services Executive Director Bill Morrison said there could be a catch.

Rules are still being finalized but he said the majority of kinship care givers here won’t qualify.

“If you look at our practice of usually placing the child in the temporary custody of the relative, the way this program appears to be structured, those people wouldn’t be qualified for it,” Morrison said. “It only covers when we take custody and place the child with a relative.”

BCCS Director Julie Gilbert said the county has 336 children in custody, and of those, 175 are in a relative’s temporary custody and 33 are in the agency’s custody and eligible for the new payment. The agency has a practice of giving kinship caregivers things they need like beds, sometimes they supplement their rent and vouchers for clothes.

These relatives are also eligible to apply for financial assistance through public assistance, if they meet the guidelines, which is roughly $300 for the first child and amounts decrease for additional children. Gilbert said the kinship providers would not be able to receive the public assistance and the new state money.

ExploreButler County watching for foster kids who aged out of system

Morrison said the agency could change its practice and stop giving temporary custody to the relatives so they would be eligible for the funds, but he believes that would not be in the best interest of the children.

“The advantage of the way we do it is you’re giving that relative the responsibility for the safety of the child by assigning them temporary custody,” Morrison said. “So there’s much more bonding and attachment with that, than if we have custody and then we control a lot more decisions about the child’s life. I think it’s psychologically better to give the relative temporary custody.”

On Jan. 6 DeWine filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit as moot, since the new program was put in place to comply with the 2017 court mandate. The relatives countered last week saying the new program is inadequate and unfair because it only offers kinship caregivers $306 a month compared to the $1,500 to $9,667 range licensed foster parents receive in Hamilton County, based on the needs of the child. In Cuyahoga County the range is $615 to $2,371.

“The new program offers grossly unequal, time-limited payments, to begin in June 2021, and only if or when funds are available,” the lawsuit reads. “On its face, the new program continues to harmfully and unlawfully treat approved relative foster homes differently, because they involve relative caregivers. Nothing has changed in regard to plaintiffs’ claim.”

Gilbert said the state sets parameters for daily rates but counties vary, the BCCS rate is $24.14 or $724.20 a month. The total budget for foster care support is $12 million for both the support and administration.

Morrison said they plan to raise their concerns to the state.

“Once we get those final rules we’ll explore avenues in order to support our kinship providers in a way that we can,” Morrison said. “I just don’t know what that is yet. But I’ll try to find some way to do it as fiscally responsibly as possible.”

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services would not say whether funding can be extended to cover kinship caregivers with temporary custody. As for whether funding will be available for the program, as the lawsuit referenced, officials said they’ll know more as the state budget is solidified.

Butler County Children Services by the numbers:

  • 336: children in protective custody
  • 208: Children in kinship care
  • 33: Children in kinship care eligible for new funding
  • $12 million: BCCS foster care support budget

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