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Cost of foster children concerns supervisors

by Larry S. Chowning

The expense of having a large number of foster and subsidized adopted children in Middlesex County was a topic of concern for the county board of supervisors on Tuesday.

Board chairman Kenneth W. Williams said there are more foster children in Middlesex County than York County. “York County has a population of 35,000 and we have a population of 10,000,” he said.

Foster child care is the responsibility of Middlesex County Social Services, but there are costs to the county for each foster child. 

Supervisor Fred Crittenden asked if all the foster children in Middlesex are from Middlesex.

Middlesex County Administrator Charles Culley said they were not, and that over the years out-of-county foster children have been accepted by Middlesex Social Services. Hopefully, Culley added, with new leadership in the department, this trend will change.

“We have tried to deal with this over the years but it is a social services department function,” said Culley. “We have a [former[ child protection service person (Art Bracke) who has been convicted and is now sitting in jail. You can draw some direct correlation from some of these things that took place in social services with him being there.” (Bracke was convicted of arson and sex-related crimes that occurred after he retired in 2007.)

“We hope that with new leadership, this will correct itself over time,” Culley said, “but you can’t undo some of the decisions that have been made.”

Crittenden said he heard there was one home in Middlesex that had far too many foster children living there.

Culley clarified Crittenden’s concern by noting there is a home in the county that is a subsidized adoption home—not a foster home—that houses many children.

Subsidized adoption homes take foster care out of the picture, explained Culley. Subsidized adoption gives the caregiver much more authority. He noted that one home in the county homeschools their subsidized adopted children under a religious exemption. This is not something that can be done under the foster care program because it allows very little monitoring of achievement of the children. 

“I’m not saying subsidized home-schooled adopted children aren’t getting served, but if they are not, then there is a good possibility they will become adult care problems and continue to drain services,” said Culley.

Culley said he is very concerned about homes in the county that house a large number of adopted children and/or foster children.

Social service allocates funds per month to foster homes, and if there are state budget cuts, this funding could become the responsibility of the county, said Culley.

JoAnn Wilson, the acting director of Middlesex Social Services, said the caseload for foster children has increased over the last couple months. She would not comment on past issues concerning foster care in the county. Wilson is new on the job in Middlesex.

Wilson explained that adoptions are subsidized when a family adopts a child with special needs, such as children with medical problems who require constant medical attention and funding. She also said that teens often require subsidizing because of the high cost of their needs.

posted 12.04.2008

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