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Foster care to see more funding

Terry Porter, the director of the Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services, doesn’t really get that much good news in his job.

But on Thursday, Porter, and all the foster care agencies in the state, got great news that Gov. Mike DeWine was fulfilling one of his campaign promises and was going to increase funding for foster care programs.

The State Child Protection Allocation is being increased to $90 million per year, up from $60 million, to give struggling county agencies the ability to pay the rising costs of serving children.

“It’s like a holiday,” said Porter when asked about his reaction to the news. “He was campaigning on the issue of foster care funding and it kind of shocked me that it happened this quick.”

DeWine took office as governor in January. Before that he was the state’s attorney general for eight years, the U.S. senator for Ohio for 12 years, the lieutenant governor for four years, and also served as Ohio Representative and Ohio Senator.

State funding for foster care programs has been flat since 2010 even as Lawrence County and other counties saw an increase demand for foster care services with more kids being placed in foster care for longer periods as a side effect of the state’s drug epidemic.

Currently, Lawrence County has 63 children in foster care and have had about that number for several years.

Porter said that besides having more children in foster care, those kids are staying in the foster care system for a longer time. Often, they are in residential care instead of a foster care home and that costs the county more money.

Most of the children are in foster homes and the county pays between $25-$55 a day for that. Kids with mental, physical or behavioral issues end up in long-term care at a residential center, and that can cost up to $250 a day per child. In 2017, Lawrence County was paying $4,000 a day for foster care services.

So any increase in funding is quite welcome.

“It will help us out tremendously,” Porter said. “We’ve been under a financial strain for a long time.”

Porter said that for every dollar spent on children services in Ohio in 2016, state dollars accounted for only 10 cents, only half of which is made available to county agencies, while local communities picked up 52 cents. By comparison, other states contributed on average 40 cents of each dollar spent.

“Even if Ohio would have doubled state spending on child protection, it would remain 50th in the nation in funding,” Porter said. “This proposed investment is desperately needed in Lawrence County.”

 

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