Relative speaking, Sacramento plans to fix foster pay discrepancy

Foster care providers who take in their relatives may soon get paid the same as those who don’t.

In Sacramento County, at least.

According to Children Now, an Oakland-based advocacy group, not many California counties seem to be signing up for a new pot of money that would level out a unique discrepancy in the way that foster providers are compensated.

As SN&R reported this past May, many foster relatives get nearly $500 less a month per child than non-relatives, due to a bureaucratic wrinkle that dates back to the 1990s.

Many states have sorted this out; California was one of the last.

In June, as part of the state budget signing, Gov. Jerry Brown carved out $30 million to right this wrong. But counties have to ask for the money by October 1 or continue paying relative caregivers substantially less.

If that happens, said Children Now’s Susanna Kniffen, “foster youth and the family members who step up to care for them will be pushed deeper into poverty.”

She said these families could eventually surrender their savings, forcing them to give up the children they’ve taken in. “Often the foster youth is eventually placed in a group home at high cost to the state and county because these families cannot access the supports and services they need,” she added via email.

The Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services has already submitted a non-binding letter of intent to apply for state funding, said Child Protective Services deputy director Michelle Callejas. “We are waiting for the California Department of Social Services to define how they will determine each county’s base caseload and respective funding level,” she wrote in an email.

Understanding that methodology would be essential to making accurate cost projections, she added.

Children Now senior policy associate Tim Morrison agreed. showed Sacramento County has at least 638 foster children living with relatives, but Morrison believed that was likely a low figure. Counties that choose to participate in the state funding, he said, will want to thoroughly vet these kids so they can maximize the amount of money they’re eligible to receive.

Still, he said, only five other California counties have more foster children with relatives than Sacramento.

Several Bay Area counties, as well as Yolo and San Diego counties, have also expressed interest in the funding, according to Kniffen. That leaves dozens that she’s yet to hear from.

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