Everyone agrees that the men and women who agree to act as foster parents for children under the states custody are a special breed of people.
The approximately 3,350 foster families in Kentucky open their homes and their lives to children infants to teen-agers who often have been abused and neglected and suffer the physical and emotional damage that goes along with abuse and neglect.
And they take on this heavy responsibility in exchange of a state allowance of $20 per day for each child. That $20 must feed, clothe and house the children and pay for all the extras that children require, from diapers to baseball gloves. That per diem allowance has not been increased in seven years.
That will change, but only beginning July 1, 2007. The General Assembly approved funding for a $3-a-day allowance increase, but only in the second year of the budget biennium.
The extra $3 will pay for about a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline today, and who knows what gasoline will cost 14 months from now?
Shirley Hedges, of Madisonville, who has five foster and two adopted children, told The (Louisville) Courier-Journal Sunday the extra allowance will help with food bills. Three dollars a day for 30 days is $90. That will buy quite a few groceries quite a bit of milk, Hedges, a former president of the state Foster Care Association, said.
Shes right, of course, but it strikes us that there also is a need for a determination of a more realistic amount of what it costs to support a foster child in a reasonable manner. A 15-year-old boy, for example, can consume $23 a day in fast food and soft drinks and still clean his plate at dinnertime.
Before the next state budget is put together in 2008, the Cabinet for Families and Children should survey what neighboring states pay foster parents and what the real costs are in Kentucky. Surely, in an $18 billion spending plan, there must be enough to give the states selfless foster parents a realistic allowance that does not rely on their own resources to break even at the end of a long day of support and care.