Tuesday, July 08, 2008

75,000 foster children; $80 million potential cuts to foster care programs

Latest Victim Of California Budget Crunch: Foster Homes
75,000 Kids Use Programs On Chopping Block
NBC 11.com, San Francisco,CA.

California budget gridlock has many people worried that children in the state's foster care programs could get hurt in the fight over funding.

For the seventh time in 10 years, lawmakers in Sacramento have failed to pass a state budget on time.

About $250,000 in foster care services may disappear.

That has left foster parents in the state wondering who will help provide critical services for thousands of California kids in need of good homes.

The failure to start the July 1 fiscal year with a spending plan could have catastrophic effects on millions of people, as dozens of programs sit on the chopping block, NBC11's Mike Luery reported.

Foster parents get hundreds of state dollars to pay for diapers, food and medical care for the kids they bring into their home.

Jessie Wright wonders how she'll be able to take care of her 9-month-old toddler.

"I called my daughter last night and I'm like -- I may need to borrow some money, because I'm not sure what's going to happen."

Foster parents like Wright receive an average of about $500 a month from the state to take care of children who often come from abused backgrounds, Luery reported.

However, with the prospect of lower payments and a stall in the state budget, long-term funding remains uncertain.

Democrats want to close the $15 billion budget gap by raising taxes.

Republicans want to cut social services.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said she wants to find a permanent source of money to help foster parents and the state's 75,000 foster kids.

"If we are able to take care of the foster care population, it will reduce the prison population in the long term, because when we don't take care of the foster children, that's where a lot of them wind up unfortunately," Bass said.

The law requires that current payments to foster parents must continue, but with $80 million in potential cuts to foster care programs, parents said they are starting to feel pinched.

"They need to find some real solutions," Wright said. "Stop doing this. Stop putting the children in the middle of it."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed last year's budget on Aug. 24.

That was seven weeks overdue.

Tuesday Bass said she believes she'll have a deal upon which Republicans and Democrats can agree upon in about a week.

That could be overly optimistic though because both parties are still bickering over the $15 billion, Luery reported.

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