The Standard Journal

State plans boost to foster care funds

- Rome News-Tribune

Georgia’s 2018 budget could be ready for a House vote as early as next week.

Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the Appropriat­ions Committee’s subcommitt­ee on human resources. She said they expect to wrap up deliberati­ons today.

“We’re not on a timeline but the days are ticking off,” she said. “The desire is to get it to the Senate by late next week.”

The human resources budget funds programs for children, the elderly and others with special needs. Foster care accounts for the largest part, according to a report by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

Dempsey’s subcommitt­ee spent most of the week listening to hours of testimony from representa­tives of both state agencies and the private providers that contract to perform some services.

“Once everybody can see the new requests, we try to prioritize,” Demp¬sey said. “Human Resources is funded pretty tightly, but sometimes we’ll be allowed money that hasn’t been allocated from other state department­s.”

Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed budget contains additional funding for foster care services — including a boost to the per diem rate paid to foster families, to $24 from $15 per child in most cases. It also would raise starting salaries for child welfare caseworker­s to $35,000.

But it would only apply to children placed through the Division of Family and Children Services. That brought pleas for parity from private providers during a hearing Monday.

Alison Evans with The Methodist Children’s Home in Macon said they support the increases, but leaving them out will affect their ability to recruit foster families and caseworker­s.

She and other members of Together Georgia, an alliance of child and family services providers, told the subcommitt­ee of their work and the support they provide beyond what the state funds.

“We’ve all been saying there’s a tremendous need for foster families, and we’ve been asked to partner with DFCS to meet that gap … we’re asking you to make right what was left out of the governor’s budget,” said Bob Bruder- Mattson, president and CEO of FaithBridg­e Foster Care.

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