Over the last decade, the number of foster parents has been declining faster than a reduction in children entering the foster system. In 2007, the county had 7,800 children in 6,380 foster family homes; there now are 6,300 children in 3,440 foster homes.
August 26, 2013: State officials have given Los Angeles County until Wednesday to fix its "shortage of foster care beds" or face possible "financial penalities" (approximately $200/day).." [The lack of foster parents for placement of, specifically, infants and toddlers, "has reached a crisis point....[with] too many children languishing in sometimes chaotic holding rooms during traumatic separations from their families..." as reported in the Los Angeles Times last night by Garrett Therolf.
...Between May 28 and July 5, nearly 600 children were diverted to holding rooms as social workers scrambled unsuccessfully to find them homes, according to data obtained under the California Public Records Act.
Stays exceeded a state-imposed 24-hour legal limit in 117 cases, and dozens of children spent multiple nights in the holding centers before being placed in foster homes. By comparison, last August only one child remained in a holding room longer than 24 hours, and overall about a third fewer children were diverted to the centers.
Typically, children who become stuck in the government-run way stations are the hardest to place: infants, largegroups of siblings, children returning from failed placements and the mentally ill or those afflicted with lice, ringworm, chickenpox, respiratory problems and other infectious diseases. Placing a child often requires more than 100 calls by social workers, records showed...
...The bed shortage is especially acute for infants, partly because the gap between the cost of caring for the children and what the state pays families is the greatest. California's reimbursement rate for very young children would have to be increased 61% to match foster parents' costs, according to a recent study by Children's Rights, a national foster care advocacy group.
The rate for children younger than 4 was recently boosted to about $680 a month, which is still hundreds of dollars below the estimated costs for foster parents.
Covering the crisis last week, Rina Palta on KPCC public radio noted a couple of the reasons people may be discouraged from applying to be foster parents -- cost, and a relatively new requirement in LA County that new foster parents be certified as adoptive parents:
"They changed the policy to prevent children from having to be moved if reunification was not successful," says [executive director of the Children's Law Center of California Leslie] Heimov. Moves are disruptive for kids, and the idea was to be able to plan "concurrently" for the child's long term future.
Heimov fears the policy change may also have turned off potential foster parents.
"Not all foster parents want to be adoptive parents."
Along with the foster parent prototype of the young person or couple looking to start a family, there's the other common model: The older person or couple, whose children have left home, and who want to continue parenting. They're generally less interested in adoption and might drop out of the certification process when confronted with the extra scrutiny adoption certification requires.
“It’s often not related to safety," says Heimov. "It’s things like having to provide the documentation from a divorce that was maybe 30 years ago, and you can’t find it."
However, Sari Grant, of [LA County Dept. of Children and Family Services], says the policy change is a red herring – that few, if any potential foster parents have been turned off by the extra paperwork. Much more pressing, she says, is the resources available to foster parents.
"Diapers are expensive," she says. "I would like to see child care as an option." (DCFS apparently has some money available for foster parents who need to use daycare, but not nearly enough to satisfy the need...)