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Foster families will see pay increase

When Washington County Job and Family Services Director Flite Freimann was tasked in January with coming up with a better way to support foster families, increase recruitment and keep more children locally.

JFS often has to find foster homes outside the county, as there aren’t enough for the children who need help, Freimann said. If a caseworker is on the road to visit a child in Licking County, that’s time away from working with the family or another case.

“Our goal has always been to recruit and retain the best foster families here in our community and we were restricted on that for a number of years because of budget restrictions,” he explained.

The plan that he brought before the Washington County Commission at their meeting Thursday morning was a Foster Family Investment Program.

The program starts with increasing the foster child subsidy. Foster parents receive a per diem rate of $20 for a child in foster care.

Rates for other counties include $32 per day for a child in Guernsey County, $23 for Morgan County and at least $25 for Athens County.

The new base rate for Washington County would be $25 per day. If the child is less than 3 years old, the per diem rate will be $30 to help offset costs for diapers, formula and infant needs. If the child is between 13 and 18 years of age, the rate will be $30 per day, as teens are often involved in extra-curricular activities, he said.

“If you have a teenager or an infant in foster care, you will receive $30 per day,” Freimann said.

When a child requires special help, such as multiple counseling or doctor appointments, or if they have physical health problems or developmental delays, the foster parents would receive a per diem rate of $35.

“We know it’s been $20 since at least 2002,” Freimann said. “Even at $35 a day, we are finally setting the example. This is the leading county in Southeast Ohio. We’re going to set a rate that responds to that. We’re going to support our foster families, we’re going to recognize their contribution and we’re going to get them where they need to be.”

Freimann said the costs for this portion of the program would be $42,000 and would start Jan. 1.

“I do not need any additional allocation. I have the funds available, I simply need your approval to spend the money in this way,” he told the commissioners.

“At first blush, $5 doesn’t sound like a lot of money,” Commission President David White said. “But when you take it that currently at the $20 a day, they are getting $7,200 a year…When they go to $25 a day, they’ll be getting $9,000 per year. Ones that are getting $30 per day, they are now at $10,800 a year. If they are at the $35 level, they would be getting $12,600. It is a significant impact for families.”

The second part of the investment program is incentive based. Both foster parents and foster children would have objectives that would need to be met. Objectives for parents could include reviewing the child’s homework daily or completing all required health care appointments.

Objectives for the child could include improving any grade below a B, completing chores or being on time for school for a month.

For meeting these goals, they would receive incentives. The incentives would be approved between JFS and the family and funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) would be used to pay for the program.

Incentives could include tickets to a sporting event, a new bike or gift cards to Walmart or iTunes. The cost of the incentives would be capped at $1,500 per year, with payments made once a quarter.

After the child is reunited with their biological family, the incentive program would continue for another two quarters.

Freimann said he spoke with people at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and they were impressed with his ideas.

“They loved this program. They requested permission to adopt it with Washington County being the pilot program with the goal of taking this statewide in 2022,” he said.

He said the state would need final approval, as TANF funds would be used, but he needed the commissioners’ approval to take the program to the state level. The commissioners gave approval at Thursday’s meeting.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

Dates to remember:

• Courthouse closed Monday for Veterans Day.

• Regular county home meeting, 8:30 a.m., Tuesday, county home.

• Regular county commission meeting, 9 a.m., Thursday, Gilman Avenue.

• Monthly finance committee meeting, 10 a.m., Nov. 19, courthouse.

Source: Washington County Commission Clerk.

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