Substandard Foster Care in Rhode Island

This is sad stuff. When you work for over a decade in the child welfare system in Rhode Island as I have, you like to think that our system is better than most, but the painful reality is that it is not. In fact, if the statistics cited in the Child Advocate’s lawsuit against DCYF are correct, we are worse than most. I have worked with kids who have been abused in foster care and in residential programs, and as a practitioner in this field I feel a keen sense of responsibility about this. I hope that the information coming out in this lawsuit will help repair the systems so that Rhode Island can improve its ability to protect and care for children.

From the Projo:

[...] The lawsuit cited other problems, saying, “DCYF has so few foster homes that it places children in homes without licenses, depriving them of basic protections of foster parent background checks and training.� And, the suit says, “Instead of appropriately investigating and addressing abuse or neglect in foster placements, DCYF continues to rely on foster care settings known to pose a risk of harm to children.�

Guillette [executive director of the Rhode Island Foster Parents Association] said the state could help retain and recruit foster parents by increasing payments for the room and board of foster children. She said Rhode Island’s “foster care board rates� are $14.39 per day for children from birth through age 3; $13.64 per day for age 4 to 11; and $15.79 per day for age 12 and above. By comparison, the rates in Massachusetts are $17.10, $17.96 and $18.59, and the rates in Connecticut are $24.85, $25.22 and $27.42, she said. [full text]

I know some at Anchorrising.com and the head of the Rhode Island Republican party, Giovanni Cicione, complain of the strong poverty advocacy lobby in the state, but when I read statistics like those above, it seems to me that our poverty advocacy lobby is not strong enough. Why are we paying a much lower rate than Connecticut and Massachusetts?

Each year, a bill is introduced to raise the rates in Rhode Island, and each year the bill dies in committee, Guillette said.

So our General Assembly is not willing to give any increase to foster families, but some salaries at DCYF have gone up by 29% in the past six years? This is not right. Support needs to get to the front lines to help kids — the money to take care of the child, the money to train the foster family, the money for staff to supervise and support the family. Please, Rhode Island. With our resources, we should be able to protect kids better than Alabama and Mississippi.

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10 responses

  1. Kiersten, Couldn’t agree more and thanks for the link. While I focused on the payroll increases, the fact is that an across the board re-prioritization needs to be made. We’d probably disagree on what exactly to prioritize, but that’s for another day.

  2. K, just one thing. It is a bit misleading when AR posts salaries that are “up 29% since X year. What people normally do is say, hmmmm, 6 years, 29%, thats an average of 4.8%. But….. each year the raises are on the raises from the prior year. That is, it is compounded. AND, the numbers AR uses are skewed because they count certain things twice, just like the Governor. Vacation, for example. If I get to take a week off, I get paid right? But I don’t get paid twice. AR and the Gov count my regular salary AND my vacation pay… they count it twice, in other words. This dramatically floats up the numbers..

    Now, why is this relevant… well, because the folks that call us Poverty Pimps like to point to a budget like DCYF and say… well, we are throwing money at it and it doesn’t work… see, since 2001 the budget has increased by 46%… cost of living is only 3%…

    They always leave out the compounding, because it doesn’t help their argument. The sad part is that they really want to say “just let the kids fight back harder.” Thats their real solution.

  3. Thanks, Pat. But it doesn’t answer the question of why we are paying a much lower rate to foster families than Connecticut and Massachusetts.

  4. I’d like to ask the Governor why he didn’t know anything about the problems with foster care. None of them are new and he wasn’t elected yesterday.

  5. Pat–you are correct about the genesis of the 29%.

    However, the point is that 4.8% is way more than what most people can expect.

    See, the real reason state & local budgets are so strained is that real median wages haven’t gone up in 30 years. If the private sector is getting by with a 2% raise each year, but teachers and others are getting 3-5% each year, you can see the divergence happening.

    The AR boys want to solve the problem by cutting state wages down to the private sectore level; the real solution is to raise the private sector. Some of those record corporate profits could easily pay for raises for the people actually doing the work.

    This is my hobby-horse, so I request forebearance if I repeat myself. But this message has got to get out. 30 years of “supply side” economics has left us with stagnant real median wages, state & local taxes that are a real burden but still aren’t enough, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, and a lower chance of upward mobility.

  6. klaus,
    it sounds to me like you are advocating socialism. Let me give you a clue – it doesn’t work, and for all its faults, capitalism is now, and will always be the best system. However, if you are inclined to sit on your butt all day, or are lulled into the complacency offered by too generous benefits for not working, you probably are not going to like capitalism. Then again, if our unionized teachers weren’t churning out such idiots from the government run schools, perhaps the result would be students better armed to make it in the world.
    Get your head out of the sand. It is better to try and pull everybody up, than your wish to pull everybody down.

  7. John, let me give you a clue. There is no black/white, either/or choice between capitalism and socialism. I know that makes it difficult for you and others who feel the same way, but that is reality. “Socialism” is the advocacy of state control of industry; no one has seriously suggested that in 40 years. Wake up and smell the millenium.

    Given that, let’s look at what worked. From 1950-1973, productivity in the US grew by 97%, and the real median wage grew by 95%. CEOs made about 40-50 times what the average worker did. This implies that gains were spread equitably through the workforce. Was the US in the 50s & 60s “Socialist”? By your definition, apparently so. Care to reconsider?

    Then, between 1980-2005, productivity grew by 71%, median compensation for an HS grad fell by 4%, and median comp for a college grad grew by 24%. In the meantime, compensation to the top 1% increased by 89%. So the wages for college grads didn’t grow even half as much as the rate of productivity growth.

    Is that your capitalist utopia? Work your butt off and get nothing, while the people at the top rake in all of the benefits? Is that the sort of society you want to advocate? Or live in? Sounds like it.

    Did you know you have a better chance of moving up the social scale–known as “upward mobility”–in Europe than you do in America?

    And I’m not trying to pull anyone down. My goal (as I very specifically stated) is to increase the median wage. That is pretty much the definition of “pulling everybody up.” You seem to prefer the current situation in which the very wealthy few stand on top of those below them on the economic pyramid.

    You may call the current situation “capitalism,” but I call it theft. Those at the bottom of the pyramid are systematically robbed of the benefits of their productivity gains.

    And, next time, actually read what I say. If you were to do so, you would note that your response is almost a complete non-sequitur. I didn’t defend the level of state raises; I said the problem is that the economic position of the middle class is being deliberately and systematically degraded by the very wealthy. It’s called “class warfare,” and the upper class is winning.

    Oh, and btw: if the second scenario is to your liking, it exists in most third-world countries. Feel free to emigrate to one of them, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  8. You are right on Kiersten. Maybe because the folks in charge would rather see us ALL as poverty pimps. There is no excuse for doing it on the cheap.

    And Klaus, give ‘em hell. I think you are right on about why the stagnant wages in this country are the problem with many things…..

    And wow, how quick the righties go to “you damn socialist” argument, huh?

  9. Hey ninjanurse,
    The Governor can’t claim that he was unaware of this situation. My wife and I took in my nephews daughter as a kinship placement due to neglect and while she was in our home we noted so many signs of abuse that went ignored by DCYF that we contacted the Governors office.
    The Governors office told us..”we have no jurisdiction over DCYF. We have no control over the decisions they make or policies that they enforce”…….that doesnt sound as though they are unaware. It sounds like they
    are unconcerned.

  10. the governor is preoccupied with issues like the looming threat of gay marriage and the psychological trauma it would cause to married heterosexuals. he doesn’t have time for all those kids who don’t vote anyway.
    come to think of it, we adults need to vote him out.
    and i want my $15,000 back.

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