Relative caregivers are the backbone of our child welfare system. Relative foster placements tend to lead to more long term placement stability and offer better connections to the child’s community. And yet, in California many of our relative caregivers are denied essential funding and services that they need to care for the children, particularly those with more intensive needs. Relatives caring for foster children that are not federally eligible are denied specialized care increments, which is an additional amount of funding above the basic rate to account for the additional costs of caring for a child with special needs. This year, the Step Up Coalition asked for an additional $15 million through the state budget in order to expand specialized care increments to all relative foster parents and to families certified through a Foster Family Agency. SCIs are exactly what our families and relative caregivers need to do what we are asking of them, which is to alter their lives and take in children stepping down from group homes who often have specialized needs. Read our fact sheet about our budget request here.
Unfortunately, our request for SCIs did not make it into the budget that was finalized this week. Though the outcome is disappointing, the fight for a truly child centered foster rate system is not over. We have built strong support for expanding current benefits that are available to relatives to include specialized care increments and are poised to reintroduce our budget request next year.
In addition, we are continuing to pursue a truly child-centered foster family home rate structure through AB 878 (Eggman), which would revise California’s foster care rate- setting structure to ensure foster children’s specialized needs are met regardless of their placement. Under our current system, a child has to move out of a relative home into a different type of family or institutional setting to qualify for the benefits and services the child needs. AB 878 would require individual assessments of each child to ensure that they receive the funding that they need regardless of where they are placed.
If we are serious about having enough families to provide high quality and stable placements our youth, we must reform our foster family rate system. Allowing all families to receive specialized care increments would be a step in the right direction. And, ultimately, we need to overhaul our rates system altogether to account for the actual needs of the child and ensure each family can receive the funding and support the child requires. Read the updated fact sheet on AB 878 here.