During an important child protection meeting Monday, a deputy from Los Angeles County’s Chief Executive Office expressed concern that opting into millions of state money meant for relative caregivers could wind up costing the county.
“There’s no way that any counties will be able to determine the financial impact, and we won’t be able to determine whether the $30 million that the state has set aside even covers a little bit, a lot, or all,” said Antonia Jimenez, deputy chief executive officer and one-time interim director of the Department of Children and Family Services. “We don’t think it covers much.”
The comments were made during a meeting of the transition team established to carry out a long slate of recommendations issued by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection.
Among those recommendations was a clear call for the county to provide family members who take in their kin with payments equal to what non-relative foster parents receive. As was reported in The Imprint, The Los Angeles Times and Witness LA, relative caregivers are often paid about half what non-relative foster parents receive to take care of children who have been victims of abuse or neglect.
In June, the state legislature enacted the Approved Relative Caregiver Funding Option Program that came with a budget allocation of $30 million for counties to increase payments to relative caregivers.
The $30 million is not a limit, but an estimate of what it would cost to pay relative caregivers the basic foster care rate, according to advocates supporting the option.
“The 30 million dollars is not a cap, and there is the opportunity to revisit whether that was a sufficient allocation to fully cover the children who were placed with relatives,” said Angie Schwartz, the policy director at the L.A.-based Alliance for Children’s Rights, and the lead advocate behind increased pay for relative caregivers.
The appropriation from the state is supposed to be determined using the base caseload of relative caregivers as of July 1, 2014. As of April 1, 2014, 43 percent (or 9,007) of Los Angeles County’s foster youth are placed with relatives, according to the California Child Welfare Indicators Project.
Los Angeles County has until the end of the month to decide whether it wants to increase payments for family who are taking care of 9,000 children who would otherwise be living with strangers.
Christie Renick is the Southern California Coordinator for Fostering Media Connections. Daniel Heimpel contributed to this story.