Supporting foster parents with adequate child care reimbursement was the forefront of discussion during the Health and Human Services Committee meeting Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton introduced LB 530, which if passed, would ensure reimbursement rates would keep up with the cost of fostering children.
The bill is based on recommendations made in November by a 19-member committee that was appointed to study the rates.
Dubas said under the bill, the standard daily reimbursement rates would be $20 for children 0-5, $23 for ages 6-11 and $25 for children ages 12-18, according to the Foster Care Reimbursement Rate Committee of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Those rates include food, clothing, shelter and miscellaneous expenses.
According to a 2007 survey, foster parents in Nebraska receive from $226-$365 a month, depending on the age and needs of the child. -Editor
Under the proposed bill, a statewide baseline payment would be established with additional reimbursement funds calculated by the geographic cost-of-living for the foster family and specialized needs for the child.
“If there is no ability to match the foster parent payment to the needs of the child, the unintended consequence will be more children are unable to find appropriate placements because there is no incentive to serve the more challenging youth,” Corrie Edwards, president of Mid-Plains Center for Behavioral Healthcare Services in Grand Island, said.
The bill would also prevent foster care agencies contracted by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services from taking increased reimbursement funds from the agencies’ own budgets before a rate changes. Some proponents of the bill said their agencies have almost gone bankrupt.
Edwards, who supports the bill, said compromising her budget has her worried about the stability of her facility and others in the state.
“I don’t want my company going out of business and so I’m going to fight this time for this,” she said.
Gregg Nicklas, co-CEO of Christian Heritage, a Nebraska nonprofit that serves foster children, said without all factors considered and the passage of LB530, agencies will be in peril financially.
“As agencies, we’re not asking for a dime more for ourselves,” Nicklas said as a proponent of the bill.
In her closing statements, Dubas said why the state needs to support foster families.
“Without those foster families, we’re sunk. We don’t have any place to put these children. They are the foundation of this program.”
The HHS Committee also discussed working families during the hearing.
Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha introduced LB 359, a bill that would prevent impoverished working families from losing their child care subsidies when their income increases slightly.
Cook said families on the federal Child Care Subsidy Program are compromised because they have to turn down raises so they will still qualify for certain subsidies.
With the bill, an increasing rate of a family’s income would be disregarded for a period of three years: 7 percent would be disregarded the first year, 15 percent after the second and after the third year the family’s income would be treated for eligibility as it initially was.
Proponent James Goddard of Nebraska Appleseed said families who lose these subsidies are jeopardized because some can’t afford child care on their own after accepting a pay raise.
Toni Liddy of Lincoln said she used the program as a single mother of four while working and obtaining her bachelor’s degree. She remembered a time when her subsidies would be cut off.
“At that moment it was terrifying to think ‘All right, so I’ve got this 50-cent raise and now I’ve got to come up with $600 for child care?’ It was not feasible at that time,” she said.
No one testified against either LB530 or LB359.