LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to try and find a way to offer longer-term funding to relatives caring for foster children and awaiting state approvals under a new system.
The county’s child welfare agency has pushed hard to find relatives to care for children removed from their parents’ homes after reports of abuse or neglect, aiming to minimize upset and maximize consistency for those kids.
But state reforms instituting new approvals for foster parents require hours of training and multiple interviews before families can receive foster care funding.
The Department of Children and Family Services provides a temporary $400 stipend to relative caregivers for up to three months to try and bridge that gap. But approvals are taking longer, leading Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl to ask staffers to look at whether monies could be provided beyond the 90-day period.
“In comparison to non-relative foster parents, relatives caring for foster children tend to be older, have lower incomes and be in poorer health,” Solis said. “With a shortage of foster homes, I hope today’s action will give families the financial support to help care for their relatives.”
Foster families — some of whom are asked to take in two or three siblings with little to no warning — praised the move.
“Two years ago, my wife and I decided to try to get custody of my siblings,” said Imrith Martinez, who said the stipend helped him pay for uniforms and school supplies for the three younger children. “The power that you have today to pass this motion can affect a lot of families.”
Susan Abrams of the Children’s Law Center said California’s Continuum of Care Reform had “very serious unintended consequences,” and described relatives calling her office crying and desperate about their inability to take care of their nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
The motion also directed staffers to review how state approvals might be expedited.
“Both are critical to make sure that families are not suffering,” said Elise Weinberg, a policy attorney with the Alliance for Children’s Rights.