Oklahoma City -- The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is increasing reimbursement rates for foster families as part of its Pinnacle Plan for improving child welfare services. The new rates will take effect on Aug. 1, 2012 and will help in the retention of foster families across the state. Foster parents should see the increase in their September payments.
As part of the OKDHS Pinnacle Plan for child welfare, the Oklahoma legislature appropriated funds for incremental raises for foster parents as well as child welfare staff over the next five years. Only the first year of the funding has been approved. The monthly reimbursement for foster parents is used to help pay for food, clothing, shelter, school supplies, personal incidentals and reasonable travel. The original rate was set 30 years ago with only two previous rate increases. Based on sources determining the cost of raising a child, the current rate is significantly below the rising increase in cost-of-living expenses.
"It's not just about money," said Deborah Smith, Director of OKDHS Child Welfare Services. "We appreciate those foster parents who have stepped-up and provided safe, loving homes for so many children in Oklahoma. We still need 500 additional foster families and we are committed to improving the experience of new foster parents," Smith continued. "The rate increase is just one of the new initiatives we plan to implement to improve our response to people interested in fostering and to improve our services."
Smith noted that increased rates for foster parents will affect future reimbursement rates for adoptive parents.
The issue of recruiting additional foster families is important to Governor Mary Fallin who serves as a spokesperson for the OKDHS foster care recruitment campaign, "You can change a child's lifetime."
"With more than 8,000 children in the Oklahoma foster care system, it's vitally important we recruit more foster families and ensure those families have the means to support foster children," said Gov. Fallin. "By increasing reimbursement rates for foster families, as well as increasing the pay of frontline workers and reorganizing the structure of the child welfare division, Oklahoma is sending a strong signal that the state is committed to the reforms of the Pinnacle Plan, which will help us provide more transparency and accountability while ensuring our children are protected and well served."
The legislature also appropriated funds for incremental salary increases for OKDHS child welfare specialists. The first year increases were approved effective July 16 and staff will see the increase in their August checks. Pay increases are just one of the initiatives aimed at supporting the child welfare workforce. OKDHS is also focused on worker certification, improving training, technology, supervision and more manageable caseloads.