In Tennessee, the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) pays foster and adoptive families between 22 and 29 dollars a day to cover the living expenses for children removed from their parents’ custody for maltreatment. The payments are low; however, they do help the compassionate families who help these troubled children pay the bills and purchase household neccessities.
Earlier this year, as our state confronted the staggering recession-induced deficit, Governor Bredeson asked every state agency to make budget cuts of up to 20 percent. Tennessee DCS complied and developed a list of almost 55 million in plausible cuts (encompassing generally everything the organization does that it is not legally required to do).
According to Doug Swisher, budget director at Tennessee DCS, the state’s board payment program barely escaped cuts in the most recent budget round. At the last minute, it was saved by the Reinvestment stimulus package, which gave DCS 10 million dollars in funding to help cover more of the $46 million dollar cost of the board payment program.
This is good news for Shelby County, where 925 children were in care as of June 30, 2007. Over 20% of these children were between birth and four years of age—the time period in which the most rapid cognitive, social and emotional development takes place. It is critically important that these susceptible infants and toddlers have access to the crucial resources they need for healthy growth - and the DCS board payment program helps transitional and adoptive families meet the basic needs of these children.
“Abused and neglected children are among the most vulnerable citizens in this country,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights, a New York-based children’s advocacy organization. “We know that child abuse tends to increase during difficult economic times, so for the state to receive an increase in federal funds that will in any way help to protect these kids is not only important, but a very good thing” (Ross, 2009, p.1).
For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.
Ross, J. (2009, July 20). Stimulus saves, but doesn't raise, foster care payments. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090720/NEWS01/907200342/Stimulus+saves++but+doesn+t+raise++foster+care+payments
TN Department of Children's Services. Annual Report FY 2009. Nashville, TN: Author. http://www.state.tn.us/youth