SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California is endangering the welfare of more than 2,000 foster children by cutting 10 percent of funding for group homes, a child advocacy group says. The state pays only 68 cents for every dollar it costs to care for a foster child, and 12 homes already have closed. “It’s a terrible problem we face,” lead attorney William Abrams said. “If you take away that 10 percent, it becomes a disaster.”
The California Alliance of Child and Family Services says the state’s 2009 budget cuts violate the Child Welfare Act by failing to reimburse group homes at the rate required by law.
The cuts affect group homes such as San Francisco’s Edgewood Center for Children and Families, which has served California children for 155 years, according to the federal complaint.
Abrams said group homes are slashing essential services to reduce costs.
“They’re cutting beds, facilities, programs, staff, and staff salaries,” Abrams said. “The cuts have been felt on every possible level.”
The closures have affected foster children across the state, Abrams said. Many of the children are developmentally disabled and have no families to return to. Displaced, many hope for beds to open up elsewhere, but the Alliance predicts a loss of nearly 900 beds statewide.
“The homes don’t have any choices, and it’s not like they’re profitable to start with,” said Abrams, who added that group home staff members are typically paid minimum wage.
“The staff is highly trained, but they’re basically volunteers because they’re making nothing. But these people are so very dedicated that they’ll do all they can.”
The Alliance asks that the state be enjoined from enacting the cuts and that it implement a reimbursement system that complies with the Child Welfare Act.
While Abrams acknowledged California’s fiscal crisis, he said, “The state is going to have to find a way to comply with the law.”
Abrams works with Bingham McCutchen of Palo Alto.