Foster Care Services Get Increases for Foster Parents, Child Placement Agencies
Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed $788 million Department of Human Services budget for the 2019 fiscal year includes new support to meet the growing needs in the state’s foster care system and to help ensure the safety and protection of Georgia’s most vulnerable children. The 2019 proposal is an increase of $56.3 million over the budget lawmakers approved last year. The spending plan takes steps to bolster out-of-home placement services by paying for program growth, mental health care coordinators, per diem increases for foster parents and child caring institutions.
The largest share of state funding for the department is for child welfare related services. The Division of Family and Children Services’ (DFCS) efforts to protect vulnerable children account for about 63 percent of the agency’s overall budget. Smaller yet vital programs such as vocational training for adults and elder protection services account for the rest of the money.
By the Numbers
Amended 2018 Fiscal Year
- $15.1 million to increase funds for growth in out-of-home care use
2019 Fiscal Year
- $15.1 million for growth in out-of-home care use
- $7.5 million to increase per diem rates by $2.50 for relative foster parent care
- $3.8 million for increases in child placement agency administrative costs and child caring institution per diem rates
- $2.3 million to fund 19 care coordinator positions for foster children, a recommendation of the governor’s Commission on Children’s Mental Health
New Foster Care Funds Cover Rising Needs but Gaps Persist
Georgia’s opioid crisis is splintering families and putting pressure on out-of-home care and adoption services, according to state human services officials. The governor’s budget proposals add $15.1 million in the amended 2018 plan and $15.1 million in the proposed 2019 budget to meet the growing need. Since December 2016, the foster care population grew about 8.2 percent, with a recent peak of 14,096 children in December 2017. Due to the growth and need for greater flexibility in adoption services, DFCS replaces $2.7 million of federal money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant with state general funds. In child welfare services $2.7 million in state funds is replaced with TANF funds, which effectively swaps the money between services.
Gov. Deal’s Commission on Children’s Mental Health also calls for new care coordinator positions to improve the mental health outcomes of children in foster care. The proposed 2019 spending plan includes $2.2 million to cover 19 new positions.
Last year, the governor and lawmakers announced their intent to increase rates for foster parents by $10 within two years. The additional support is needed to ensure caregivers get adequate resources to support their children and to bring Georgia’s rates more in line with other states. The proposed 2019 budget does not include the second installment to reach that goal of adding $5 more per diem. Instead, the proposal increases relative foster care per diem rates by $2.50 a day for an investment of $7.5 million.
Foster parents coordinated through child placement agencies are also set to receive an additional $2.50 a day at a cost of $2.7 million. The proposed budget also includes $2.4 million in new funding for a 2.5 percent per diem rate increase for child caring institutions, or group homes. Child placement agencies are allotted $1.1 million to cover 2.5 percent increased administrative costs.
The state made significant new investments in DFCS in the last two fiscal years to implement of several recommendations from the governor’s Child Welfare Reform Council. A top aim was to improve retention and recruitment of child welfare workers and ease the high caseloads that exceeded recommended industry standards of 15 cases per worker. The division reports that over that two-year span more than 700 positions were filled, base salaries were increased and the average caseload per worker dropped from 38 to 19.
Although the proposed budget does not fully meet the department’s needs, the 2019 spending plan includes positive measures to help ensure that children in Georgia’s custody remain safe and that workers and caregivers get the resources they need.
 Department of Human Services budget presentation, as delivered to the Health and Human Service Appropriations sub-committee, February 7, 2018.