JFAC has voted unanimously to fund half the requested increase in payments to foster families next year, after earlier setting a budget for the Division of Child Welfare that included no increase. Idaho's foster care payments are the fifth-lowest in the country, at just $274 a month for a child ages 0-5; $300 for a child age 6-12; and $431 for a child age 13-18.
"In retrospect, I really felt that we needed to do something on this request," said Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, who noted it was among the top budget requests from the germane committees. Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said a recent study showed Idaho's reimbursement rates would need to rise by 75 to 130 percent to cover foster parents' actual expenses.
Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, spoke out in favor of Jaquet's motion. "I believe that it's very critical for these children at this age to place them into families and to protect them and give them the solid environment that they need," he said. "These are challenging kids, and I think we really should be supporting families that are willing to take on those challenges." The increase amounts to $150,000 in state general funds, less than half the division's $309,000 request; and $498,100 in federal matching funds, for a total of $648,100 next year.
The joint budget committee also voted unanimously for a $33,000 current-year budget adjustment to the Council for Deaf & Hard of Hearing to prevent that council from having to shut its doors for the rest of this fiscal year, which the previously set Vocational Rehabilitation budget would have forced; most of that is a shift from other areas, with just $3,000 in additional general funds.