I read recently that the average cost to bring up a child is about $250,000. No one would deny that our children are worth every penny, but it’s quite a sobering number for anyone considering taking on the responsibility of a child. For the children we serve at Hillsides, we often turn to members of their extended families to support them if for whatever reason the children’s parents cannot. All the studies show convincingly that maintaining children within their own family is far more effective than offering them foster care. One of the important services we offer the children and families in our care is assistance in identifying a family member who may for a time serve as a surrogate parent. However, the current funding regulations do not provide these families members the same financial support that would be offered to a foster parent.
For a while now, Hillsides has advocated for equal funding for relative caregivers. Together with other advocates, we have successfully addressed this issue in Sacramento. As a result, this year’s state budget allows counties to access a pool of money to provide the same amount of funding for relative caregivers as that offered to foster parents. However, counties must indicate their intention to opt in to this funding program by October 1.
To our amazement, Los Angeles County has yet to indicate their intention to participate in this program. As was stated in a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times that advocated for the adoption of this funding program, the clock is ticking. We add our support for this important funding source to that of the LA Times and other advocates. We encourage the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to move quickly to adopt this all-important funding source for scores of family members who desperately need this assistance in order to provide for children in their household.
When I attend treatment meetings, unfortunately it is not uncommon for me to hear of family members struggling to provide for children who have taken refuge in their homes. These are people whose only intention is to keep the child safe while still engaged within his or her own family. They do this while balancing many other financial responsibilities for their own children, and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to receive one more child into their homes. In some instances, these are grandparents who have retired and are challenged by fixed incomes but nevertheless care for their grandchildren.
The sacrifice of these family members is heroic. The support that would be offered through this program is essential for them to be successful at caring for these children. In spite of the challenge that these families may have, the importance of being able to maintain a child within his or her own family system has shown to be an indispensible factor in the child’s success. The least we could do is offer these family members the same support we offer any foster parent.