Surely you've all heard the story of King Soloman and the baby right? Two mothers bring a baby to King Solomon - each insisting the child is their own. King Solomon, in all his wisdom, calls forth one of his men and orders that the baby be cut in half - so that each mother can have part. As the sword is lifted over the child, one woman cries out "Stop! Let her have him!". And King Solomon rightly gives that woman the baby - because she was willing to let him go rather than see him killed.
Its a great biblical story and has many applications that apply to the world today. But my state's Governor is trying to play King Solomon right now and it is NOT WORKING. Let me explain -
My agency is a private agency contracted by the Department (of Child/Family Services) to provide a number of services - the biggest of which is Foster Care.
Because our state legislators don't actually know or care about the children and families that use our services - we've been being used as pawns in a battle to balance our state budget. Democrats insist we need tax increases and Republicans believe that services can be covered by reducing "pork".
For weeks there have been rallies, marches, press conferences, etc - because the Governer put forth an ultimatam that if a budget wasn't passed by July 1st - ALL SOCIAL SERVICES would be cut until it happened.
Why Social Services? Surely there are road construction projects or something less devestating that could be put on hold until a budget was passed? Well of course there are! But then people wouldn't be rallying in the streets - they'd sit around in their houses and complain, but they wouldn't be banging on the doors of their Congressmen to demand that the potholes get fixed.
That's right - Social Services in my state are being held out as bait in a big came of "Chicken" to see which party will back down first. Good times.
So, yesterday they finally passed a provisional budget of some kind and here are the results for the Department and my agency. The cuts are drastic and the Department has to prioritize which services are most neccesary.
"Maintaining Placement" is the top priority. There had been talks of foster care "board payments" being cut by 50% - thus making it impossible for some foster parents to continue caring for the children placed with them. Now, you may say "But they are doing it for the kids, right?" Sure, I believe most of them are. But you are still talking about a child who requires having extra food, extra clothes, extra daycare, extra activities, and extra needs met. And, though their intentions are good - many people could not afford to care for these children without the board payment they get from the state. Its only $300 bucks for traditional foster care - so their losses wouldn't be so devestating. But what about our medically fragile kids whose foster parents recieve over $1,000 to pay for their special needs? Reducing that to $500 would be devestating and possibly life threatening. So, the cuts have to come from somewhere else.
As of July 1, 2009 (that's right - 5 days from now) ALL "extra" service contracts will be terminated. That means:
No Intact Family Services for High Risk families.
No therapy - for parents or children.
No substance abuse treatment. (Not even Urine testing to track sobriety.)
No Domestic Violence classes.
No Daycare Assistance (FP don't pay for daycare in my state).
No Parenting classes.
No training (for staff or foster parents).
No post-adoption/adoption preservation services.
Absolutely nothing except for board payments and caseworker's salaries will be covered.
In the meantime - the laws haven't changed. We are still required to refer parents for services to assist them in having their children return home. We are still required to take placements that come into care. We are still required to refer children to services to meet their needs. We are still required to move cases towards permanency. So, here's what will happen:
Since they've cut intact services - children will not be able to be maintained at home and will be coming into foster care.
Foster parents will not be able to take more chidlren because, at the very least, they can't afford daycare payments for more children.
Children in foster care will languish in Emergency Shelters because foster parents will not be able to take them.
Children will have more special needs because they are not getting adequate care in ES.
Children's special needs will go unmet because therapy contracts have been cancelled.
Parents will not have services to attend in order to complete their service plans.
"Return Home" goals will not be changed because the Agency can not prove that they have made "reasonable efforts" to provide services to the parents.
Cases can not move forward and children will not have any sense of permanency.
Even if cases do move forward, foster parents will not adopt because they will have no guarantee of services post-adoption.
More adoptions will disrupt due to services being cut off.
And THAT, my friends - is why the system is screwd up. Because politicians up on Capital Hill get to play games with our services. This is just like the issue brought before King Soloman. Our Governor has decided to "split the baby in half". The only problem is - NEITHER PARTY IS THE REAL MOTHER! They are fighting about things things on "principle" - not because they actually think something is better for our children.
Not a single politician up there is willing to say, "You know what? Its not worth it to back down on what I want - in order to protect the 20,000 children in foster care, the 40,000 parents who need services to turn their lives around, or the 14,000 foster parents working to provide for the children while their birth parents can not".
Instead, the Democrats will lie about how they want to "help the needy" and the Republicans will continue to reinforce their own stereotypes by doing nothing.
It makes me angry.