County DSS dealing more and more children being neglected by parents
County case workers are dealing with more and more children who are neglected by their parents, Department of Social Services Director Eileen Kirkpatrick said today during the Public Service Committee meeting.
"You see it in the news -- more child runaways, more children arrested for petty crimes," Kirkpatrick said. "We've seen an increase in people who don't care if they have their kids or not. We have more cases were we find a kid at home alone with mom at some crack house in Rochester."
Many of these children wind up in foster care, but this year Genesee County is on pace for a record number of adoptions.
There have been 13 this year already.
"That's really a big number for us," Kirkpatrick said. "Some years, we don't have any, but there's more cases of termination of parental rights."
At least, Kirkpatrick told the legislators, is there's no shortage of willing foster parents.
There have been 19 new homes certified this year.
"That's a big increase for us," she said.
The agency is working to develop its own group of foster care providers because it's less expensive than going through organizations such as Hillside, which charges the county as much as $100 more per day, Kirkpatrick said, as part of an "administrative rate."
"It's the same people (being foster parents), same members of our community, who step forward and take in foster children, but it's cheaper," Kirkpatrick said.
Related to children and county expense, Kirkpatrick expects that by 2016, that state is going to increase the age of accountability to 18. That means teenagers currently treated as adults in the criminal justice system (ages 16 and 17) will go through Family Court rather than municipal courts.
These teens, who if convicted might spend time in county jail, will instead be diverted to the juvenile detention system, increasing the county cost per-child, per-day from about $70 to more than $1,000.
"We're going to treat those children differently, but it's going to come at a cost," Kirkpatrick said.
Part of Kirkpatrick's department review with the Legislature included this information:
- There's going to be a cut in funding for county-subsidized child care. Working, low-income parents are eligible for assistance through the program (it's not a free program), but reserve funds that had rolled over from previous years are now spent (about $216,000), and the allocation from the state is not expected to increase.
- It appears more people are finding work. Case loads indicate there are fewer people needing assistance. "We weathered the storm of extended unemployment running out and those people are not flocking through the doors," Kirkpatrick said.
- By 2015, reforms for Medicaid mean that the county's share of expenses will be capped at about $9.6 million, ending the cycle of ever-increasing costs. The cap remains in place whether there is a 20-percent increase of Medicaid recipients or a 20-percent decrease.
God Bless folks who are willing to be foster parents. My parents took in numerous foster children while I was growing up. Most had pretty poor family lives prior. Lots of baggage and problems, it takes special people to be foster parents. Raising our own was enough for us. My hat is off to those who can do it.