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Indiana slashes payments for special needs foster children

In late 2009, the Department of Child Services in Indiana announced 10 percent cuts to to foster home families. In late 2009, the Department of Child Services in Indiana announced 10 percent cuts to to foster home families. (Aj Mast/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 29, 2010

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is trying to shift hundreds of foster children with medical, emotional, or behavioral problems into cheaper care for children without special needs, a move that cuts payments to families who care for the state’s most challenged children.

The change would give foster families less money to pay for therapy, food, clothing, and other costs.

And some fear that fewer families could volunteer for the job in the future because they would have to cover the bills themselves.

Foster parents who provide homes for special-needs children are paid up to $100 a day. Under the state’s new plan, many would receive $25 or less.

“Twenty-five bucks a day — it’s not a lot,’’ said foster parent Terry Blackburn of Brownsburg, Ind., who has fostered more than 100 children with his wife, Ruth.

“If you go buy a pair of shoes and a pair of pants for the kid, you’ve already spent your $25.’’

The changes, made quietly without public attention, come as officials are attempting to cut $56 million from the cost of providing for the more than 10,000 children who are in the state’s care because they could not remain with their families.

The Department of Child Services announced plans in late 2009 to cut payments to those who provide homes for the children by 10 percent.

Overall, the cuts would reduce the state’s costs by about 8 percent by June 2011.

Many other states — including Arizona, California, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah — also have cut spending on children’s services because of budget problems.

Some states have reduced payments to foster homes or group facilities or considered laying off caseworkers.

“The states are getting pounded, and this is one of the few times I’ve seen child welfare really get hit,’’ said Michael Petit, president of the advocacy group Every Child Matters.