Help coming to pay for foster care: New state budget provides more for family services

Published 10:53 am Wednesday, July 24, 2019

“It’s like Christmas time,” said Terry Porter, the director of the Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services, of the state’s new budget, which will gives a hundred-million-dollar boost to county children services agencies.

Porter said that the agency had four percent budget cuts for the past decade because the 2010 census showed that Lawrence County had lost population and government funding is based on the census count.

At the same time, Children Services has had an influx of children entering foster care as a result of the drug misuse crisis facing this area.

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“So, we have had to rearrange our operational money around that shortfall,” Porter said. That meant taking money out of their budget for building repair and maintenance to fund the costs of foster care. “Our foster care was so high because of the drug issue.”

The increase is part of a budget bill passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. DeWine on July 24. DeWine had campaigned on increasing funding to help children in foster care.

Porter estimates the agency will get around $200,000 from the state.

“So, we will be able to pay our foster care bills and do some upkeep on our building that has been lagging behind for so long,” Porter said.

The Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services has an average of more than 60 kids in foster care every day and for a longer time than a decade ago.

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 an increase in state funding will be a big help for the agency.

“This government coming in and doing what they did, it is like Christmas time to us,” Porter said.

Porter isn’t the only Department of Jobs and Family Services director happy with the increase.

Angela Sausser, executive director of Public Children Services Association of Ohio, called it “a welcome relief” to every county in state.

“For too long, children services agencies have struggled with more children coming into foster care, staying longer, and requiring more treatment and services, pushing our system to the brink,” she said. “Now is a time to rebuild. Rebuild our workforce, rebuild our capacity and begin to rebuild families devastated by the opioid epidemic. To the Governor and the legislators who stood up as champions for abused and neglected children, we encourage you to continue partnering with us on the road to mending our fragmented system.”