Ohio unveils restricted plan to pay kinfolk caring for youths

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Advocates of Ohio adults caring for related children in their care insist that a new law increasing payments for such carers doesn’t go far enough to signal the need for one Solution that satisfies all parties has not yet been reached.

It involves relatives who are not licensed carers but are approved by their parents to care for children. The arrangement is often referred to as kinship care.

Proponents have long claimed the state must obey a 2017 federal appeals court ruling ordering equality of payments to kinship carers and sued in November to enforce that ruling.

Nearly a year after promises were made that a plan was in the works, Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill late last year that provided a partial solution. Lawyers immediately criticized it as inadequate.

The plan essentially provides a financial bridge for caregivers until they become licensed foster parents. It authorizes a family carer payment of $ 10.20 per child per day for up to nine months.

If caregivers are not licensed at this point, they will abandon the daily allowance and revert to the current system, which offers far lower payments.

Under the new law, DeWine signed an executive order directing the state recruitment agency to work out a plan for payment by July 1.

Payments will be made retrospectively by December 29th, the day DeWine signed the invoice. The state estimates it will pay about $ 17 million annually to the state’s 2,600 or so kinship carers.

DeWine called such carers “an important and essential part of our child care system”.

Due to the law and its payment system, the state asked a judge on Wednesday to dismiss the federal case.

The new law “stipulates that plaintiffs have requested the payments,” said Attorney General Dave Yost, who represents the state recruitment agency, in a court case.

The plan is inadequate and will not stop the lawsuit from moving forward, attorney Richard Dawahare said. He said the promised payments were “a fraction” of what foster parents receive, and criticized both the nine-month deadline and the fact that payments are dependent on the state actually allocating the money.

“These recent efforts, like the long-standing inadequate program, are unfair and unequal for these vulnerable children and their relative foster parents,” Dawahare said.

The November lawsuit highlighted the significant gaps between payments from foster parents and relatives.

For example, a plaintiff in the federal complaint cares for a 1-year-old boy in Cuyahoga County and receives $ 302 per month in government benefits under the current system. But licensed foster parents in Cuyahoga County get much higher amounts – from $ 615 to $ 2,371 per month per child – and even more if children have special needs, the lawsuit said.

The plan does not meet the requirements of the 2017 court ruling and does not adequately support caregivers, said Barb Turpin, co-secretary of the Ohio Grandparents / Kinship Coalition. She noted that few kinship carers want to become licensed foster parents.

The payment problem has come to the fore in recent years as more children have been removed from their homes amid the opioid crisis. Caregivers who filed the lawsuit said economic pressures from the coronavirus pandemic only made things worse.

The federal ruling that ordered payment equality applied to Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, and Ohio, the four states overseen by the US 6th Court of Appeals. Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee all made the payments, records show.

FILE – In this file photo dated August 15, 2019, Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, looks over a photo display outside her Columbus, Ohio office. A federal lawsuit has been filed to compel Ohio to increase alimony payments for children given custody of children they are related to.

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