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Idaho Sets Budget Priorities; Foster Families Should Be Among Them

Times-News Editorial Board
February 15, 2013
Twin Falls Times-News

Idaho will pay a private prison about $50 a day to house a prisoner.

The state gives schools about $40 a day to educate a child.

To foster a young child? A family receives about $10 a day.

State lawmakers are currently discussing those costs, mulling a budget request to raise Idaho's foster care reimbursements.

In January, the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee listened to a proposal from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to grant $500,000 in extra foster care reimbursement funds. The committee hasn't set a specific date to finalize its decision on that budget. If the increase is approved in committee, it will be considered by the full House and Senate.

Money shouldn't be the reason to take in a foster care child, but increasing reimbursements could help attract more families who have an interest, Susan Baca, a resource parent training consultant for Magic Valley Youth and Adult Services, told the Times-News last week.

In Idaho, foster families are paid $300 a month for children ages 0-5 years old, $339 for ages 6-12, and $453 for ages 13-18. The proposed budget would increase the reimbursements to $329, $366 and $487, respectively.

Taking in a foster child is a labor of love. But it can also be a financial burden. Beyond the usual food, clothing, shelter and school supplies that most parents pay, foster parent Breana Arnell of Oakley told the Times-News in an interview last week that there are also multiple trips to counselors, doctors and, sometimes, probation officers.

"Some months are worse than others but what are you going to do?" foster parent Mary Jo Gartner said.

Foster parenting shouldn't be a money-making venture, but we also shouldn't expect people to be selfless and sacrifice their own financial well-being to help out the state's programs.

That's why we support the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's request. Its proposal would grant $500,000 more to foster care reimbursement, which would afford a few more dollars a day to each foster family.

That's still not enough, but at least it's something. As with education funding, Idaho ranks among the lowest in the nation when funding foster families. A study performed in 2007 found the state would have to more than double compensation in order to cover the actual cost of raising a child.

Finding homes for children in need is a no-brainer. Even at $20 a day, the cost is well below what the state pays to house prisoners. Placing at-risk youth into loving, supportive families is a good way to deter our prison populations from growing.

Let's spend the money on them now, rather than later.

Originally posted at

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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