In the wake of a $1.7 billion dollar budget shortfall, Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she wants to spend $12.7 million dollars to raise reimbursement rates for foster parents across the state.
It's all part of Gov. Brown's proposed budget for 2017.
DHS says the reimbursement rates for foster parents haven't been adjusted to the cost of living for a decade. That's a big barrier to some people considering becoming a foster parent.
That's why many say they are excited at thought of that finally changing.
Justin Lucia is a foster parent in the Portland metro area. He told FOX 12 he didn't do so for the money, rather because he loves kids.
That being said it's expensive to raise a family, especially when factoring in the rising cost of living in Portland.
"My wife and I both work full-time so we need to pay for childcare and the money from the state doesn't cover child care," said Lucia. "Anything we want to do on top of care comes out of our pocket."
It's a common feeling expressed by many people the youth pastor talks to when trying to get them involved in fostering children of their own.
"Whenever I meet people I'm like, 'oh hey, I'm Justin you should do foster care' and I try to recruit them and their first response every time is that 'I work full-time, can't do it' and it's a valid concern. The money you get doesn't cover the cost of child care, or anything else, food and supplies," Lucia said.
According to the state, as it stands now the base foster care daily reimbursement rate in the state of Oregon is $18.90 for children ages 0-5 years, $21.53 for children ages 6-12 years, and $24.36 for children ages 13-20 years.
That rate hasn't changed in years, making it challenging for some to continue to stay foster parents.
DHS told FOX 12 over the last two years the agency lost the equivalent of 400 beds in family homes and 100 beds in residential facilities. It's a crisis that's led to case workers housing children in motels and state offices.
"We have had folks from DHS tell us over and over again that this is the hardest year experienced at the agency, and anecdotally, it's felt that way to us as well," said Embrace Oregon Executive Director Brooke Gray.
Embrace Oregon is a nonprofit agency dedicated to supporting the state's must vulnerable children. Gray told FOX 12 their efforts recently expanded to recruiting foster parents, after seeing the need.
"When we hear from our friends at DHS that there are 25 kids in Multnomah County waiting for foster placement, you can't help but feel the responsibility to share that with the community because it happens so quietly, it's like a disaster no one knows about," said Gray.
Gray says the nonprofit was encouraged by Gov. Brown's proposed budget for 2017 and her support of raising reimbursement rates for foster parents. She believes something dramatic needs to be done in order to recruit and retain foster families.
"It reinforces the value of foster parents and it speaks to their dignity and worth. It shows gratefulness to foster parents for sacrificing so much to step into this space," said Gray.
If Gov. Brown's budget is approved with the proposed increase in state funding to child services, that daily reimbursement rate would rise to $24.18-$27.75 based on the age of a child.
A rate that could make all the difference to families like the Lucia's.
"I'm excited because these kids are amazing and they deserve the best," said Lucia.
Gov. Brown's proposed budget will be discussed during the 2017 legislative session.
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