Higher per diem for older foster kids would help families get by
Philadelphia's Department of Human Services says it's willing to shell out more money to help find foster homes for older youths.
Almost half the kids in DHS care for are age 14 or older and while it's not easy or cheap to raise a teenager, DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose said more families need to step up. "Raising adolescents is very expensive. I have three of my own; and, trust me, they need lots of things and are engaged in lots of different activities and that comes with a cost."
Ambrose said to help youth in family settings, DHS is looking into increasing the per diem for older foster children between ten and twenty dollars. That money would go directly to the child.
"Whether it was for allowance or purchase of clothing, but it wouldn't go to the agency that has the foster home and it wouldn't go necessarily to the foster parent--it would be for the needs of that youth," she said.
Ambrose said right now the per diem is the same for all youth unless they have special needs, and the larger payments might encourage more families to take in teens. She said national research has shown youth in foster care do better when they have the same opportunities as their peers. She said that includes the freedom to go shopping or to go out to eat.
National Foster Parent Association President Irene Clements said it can be difficult to find families willing to foster teens and hopes increasing the daily reimbursement rate might help.
"Usually we found that the busier you can keep these kids, the more involved we can keep these kids, the more engaged we can keep them, that they can become better socialized and really start to understand that they have a future that they can take control of," she said.
Clements said it's not uncommon to pay more to support foster teens, compared to younger children. In Pennsylvania, one-third of the 13,000 children in foster care are age 14 or older.
DHS will hold a town hall meeting on Thursday May 30th at the Lenfest Center (3890 N. 10th Street) to recruit new foster parents and discuss the need for more foster homes for older youth. The meeting will provide current and prospective foster parents with information that will help them learn more about the child welfare system and resources that will help them with fostering older children.
May is Foster Care Awareness Month.