Other foster and adoptive parents cite a lowering of their “per diem” payments — the daily rate meant to help pay for the “ordinary and special needs” of children in the system — and less availability of programs to help both children and parents as DCS has renegotiate with agencies what services will be paid for.
Ann Houseworth, director of communications for DCS, has not responded to several e-mails and telephone requests for information on these and other topics over nearly two weeks.
In a January interview with The Tribune, Director James Payne said of the Jan. 1 per diem changes that the rates aren’t really lower; instead, they’re based on what a child’s specific needs are.
He says foster parents aren’t discouraged by the changes, and that DCS is training more foster parents than ever.
“I think that we are keeping more children at home and with relatives, but we still have an abundance of foster parents,” Payne says.
But some, like South Bend adoptive parent Aesha Shabazz, say paying only for “special” needs discounts the need for a child to live as ordinary a life as possible.
Shabazz, who has adopted four previously abused siblings and others in addition to raising her own children, believes strongly in immersing them in sports, music and other activities to provide self-esteem and to keep them out of trouble.
‘Like child support’
Elkhart foster parent Julia Frick laments the lack of an Oaklawn support group that she says was recently unfunded. She says she’s been told that much of previous help for parents and children will be provided by DCS case managers instead.
Frick took in a 9-month-old girl and her 5-year-old brother nearly three years ago. The boy “was a mess,” she remembers, having been repeatedly locked in his room alone for hours at a time by caregivers.
“When he first walked in the door, he was like a caged animal,” Frick says. After his first bath, “he freaked out when we went to rinse his hair. It turned out someone had pushed his head under water” when they were giving him baths.
Therapy has taken both children a long way, Frick says, but they still have ongoing behavioral and educational issues.
When she asked about adopting the children, she had been told she’d receive an adoption subsidy, she says.
“This made sense to me, kind of like child support,” Frick says. “We would have adopted them either way, but this was very reassuring.”
Yet shortly thereafter, she says DCS told her the rules had changed and, instead, she’d be paid nothing.
She hired an attorney and fought for some reimbursement for the children’s special needs, she says, winding up with about half of what she had expected.
“It’s about the kids,” Frick says. “It’s not about the money, it’s not about control.”
But Frick was lucky; hundreds of Indiana adoptive parents are on a waiting list for adoption subsidies through the state that DCS apparently has no intention to make good on.
‘It’s never made any sense’
Several familiar with DCS changes quote Director Payne as saying that parents should adopt for love, not money.