In the past three years, Georgia’s foster-care population has skyrocketed from about 7,600 in September 2013 to 13,266 last month. According to Casey Family Programs, about 31 percent of children brought into foster care are coming from parents with drug and alcohol addictions.
Finding foster homes for these children has become increasingly difficult. Making it even more difficult, Georgia child welfare programs for kids under state supervision haven’t been getting paid enough. Organizations that take in large amounts of foster care children, like Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, report not receiving enough money to cover their day-to-day expenses. Many organizations have been left to raise money in their communities to cover rising costs.
Dept. of Family and Child Services spokesperson Susan Boatwright attributes some of the funding problems to the current rate structure. “The current rate structure has been in place since 2008, and while providers received small increases – 4.5 percent total during recent budget cycles – the rates have not increased enough to keep pace with inflation.”
In order to better serve the families and children involved in state child welfare programs, we need better access to addiction support and counseling for parents and more money for children’s services providers. If drug and alcohol addiction isn’t dealt with and children aren’t cared for, the steadily increasing numbers of children in the foster care system will only continue.
Children in the foster care system have complex medical, emotional and psychological needs. We cannot continue to short-change them and expect them to grow up into well-adjusted adults. If we continue to deprive these children of the vital services they need, the chances that they will live healthy and happy lives, independent of the state, is very unlikely.