Reimbursement for Cost of Care vs. Professional Salary
This is not a new idea; Foster Parenting is just the last essential occupation to get on board with professionalization.
Originally in the early 1900’s neglected and abused children were placed in foster homes that were provided a small boarding stipend to the parents. The stipend was modest because there was an agreement that the abused foster children would provide free labor for the family farm. Child labor laws in the first part of the 20th century began to define children’s “workplace” to the schools. Child placing agencies responded by emphasizing the volunteer aspect of foster parenting and targeting their recruitment that way. From there county and state funds were used for the boarding stipends and foster homes were screened (later licensed) to ensure the funds went towards meeting the basic needs of the foster children. The strategy of licensed boarding with volunteer foster parents was almost able to keep up with the placement demands until the 1970’s, when women began to enter the paid workforce. More women substituted paid employment for unpaid labor in the home. The supply of volunteer foster parents dwindled. In the late 80’s the population of foster children rose from 280,000 in 1986 to 400,000 in 1990.
The next big idea was to pay current foster parents to recruit others like them, which increased the quantity of available foster parents, but most certainly did not meet the quality of care needs. Quantity of foster parents providing “beds” has always been the primary goal and quality has barely been an issue simply because beggars cannot be choosers. The complex needs of abused children being removed from their parents with severe drug problems, violent behavior and criminal behavior overwhelmed the supply and abilities of volunteer foster parents. Group homes were developed and foster children were placed in state licensed therapeutic group homes and bounced back and forth between locked mental health hospitals and juvenile hall. Eventually it was determined that institutionalization was detrimental to the emotional and psychological development of our already traumatized children, which created a push to move back towards a “family home” setting. This is where we find ourselves currently, with a half a million abused children requiring safe, committed and loving homes to feel secure and begin to heal from the trauma they have endured. Today almost 70% percent of our abused children who have received our intervention and care from our volunteer foster parents will be homeless, go to jail or die within one year of leaving the foster care system at 18 (Nunn, 2012). That should lead to a nationwide outcry against the outrage of our broken and dangerous system!