Post-Pandemic, the Financials of Foster Care Are More Crucial Than Ever

In this current economic environment left uncertain by the pandemic, foster care agencies worry that confusion surrounding the cost of care is a key deterrent for prospective foster parents who might otherwise give their much-needed support.

New Carlisle, OH — (ReleaseWire) — 04/15/2022 — The number of children in the foster system actually reduced during the pandemic in the state of Indiana and Kentucky. Experts attribute this to a lack of social work investigation over the period rather than any real reduction in need.

However, there are still many children needing placement but with many people having suffered financial setbacks from the impacts of Covid-19, some potential foster parents have economic concerns about taking up the role.

Benchmark Family Services, a therapeutic foster care agency operating in both Indiana and Kentucky, addresses financial concerns for prospective foster parents in a recent YouTube podcast, Foster Finances, and gives inside information on why they pay premium rates to their foster parents.

In this podcast, they explain why income and other aspects of stability are assessed in the qualifying of foster parents and dispel the myth that prospective parents must be able to ‘afford’ a foster child. “Basically, you have an independent income which is yours to maintain your household then you get paid money to help with the cost for the child that’s living in your home.” Explains Teresa Knisely, Benchmark’s Program Administrator.

Benchmark compensates its foster parents above what many other private agencies offer. They have long held the policy of paying their foster parents the higher percentage of the monies received from the state and using the lower percentage to cover its operational costs.

Contrary to common belief, foster parenting is not a vein of easy supplemental income. It is relentless work that requires time and commitment to a child whose length of stay can be unpredictable. For Benchmark, providing a more equitable per diem rate doesn’t only provide the financial support needed to parent a child or teen with higher needs, but also expresses the priceless appreciation the agency holds for its parents who have answered the call to hard work and persistence. “We recognize that it is not an easy task. It’s difficult.” asserts Knisely and cites the standout tenacity required to be a Benchmark foster parent.

In Kentucky, Benchmark sets the per diem rate according to the level of the child. This level reflects the intensity of care the child requires whether that’s deemed basic, moderate, severe, or specialized. As these levels fluctuate the per diem will also fluctuate as necessary.

In Indiana, however, the agency cannot pay its hallmark premium rates. Benchmark must pay their foster parents the flat rate the state assigns based on the age of the child regardless of the level of care required.

Some good financial news for foster parents everywhere is that children in their care may qualify as dependents, may qualify the foster parents for the Child Tax Credit, and payments received for their care is considered nontaxable income.

There are other ways foster parents are strongly supported beyond the per diem rate according to Michelle Leonard, Benchmark’s Director of Training. In the podcast Leonard describes the 24-hour access their foster families have to the agency seven days a week and expounds “…most [foster parents] come back to Benchmark because they realize not every agency provides that 24/7 support.”

Equally substantial is the training and guidance the agency provides. Before and during the placement of a child in a Benchmark therapeutic foster home, the foster parents receive specialized training. They are taught trauma-informed approaches enabling them to handle crisis situations with the foster child. And to help lay a decisive path towards the child’s permanency, the agency develops individualized service plans that are child-centered and include inputs from the foster parents.

No matter the impact on the nation’s financial climate, Benchmark insulates the children in their care with a synergy of tools that empower its foster parents to commit to the challenge with confidence, strength and reliability. Benchmark’s clear objective as stated by Knisely: “That is our goalβ€”for the child to be stable in the home.”

About Benchmark
Benchmark Family Services is a network of professional, therapeutic foster homes providing out-of-home placements for children who have experienced severe neglect or abuse. We support people to become therapeutic foster parents, making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and teenagers. Most of the youth we serve are adolescents who require more intensive care and support.

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Anthony Dill
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