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Budget increases monthly payments to foster parents

Friday, March 30, 2007

Foster parents would receive an increase in their monthly payments for the first time since 2001 under a budget change sponsored by Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau.

As Missouri lawmakers debated the $21 billion spending plan for the year beginning July 1, Cooper proposed cutting $1.5 million from the tax dollars dedicated to state employee health benefits and shifting it to the foster program. Adding the state money will draw an extra $3 million in federal funding for the program, allowing for a boost of $26 to $30 per month in the payments to foster parents, said Sara Anderson, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services.

The cut won't hurt the state employee health-care program because it has a $65 million reserve, Cooper said. That reserve has increased from $13 million in 2003, he said.

The budget change must be approved by the Missouri Senate. The House finished work on the budget Thursday.

"We are excited to provide some kind of relief for these families," Cooper said.

About 10,400 children are in the state's foster-care system. Foster parents receive a base payment $227 to $307 per month based on the age of the child but most also receive an extra $100 a month after taking a specialized training and licensing course.

The change would increase the proposed funding for the basic foster-care program from $114.5 million to $119 million.

According to social services agency, the average foster child receives care for 27 months and is 10 years old.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126


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