For the first time since 1990, state officials announced yesterday a small increase in stipends for families that volunteer to care for foster children.
Beginning Jan. 1, the state's roughly 3,400 foster parents will receive $25 more a month to care for children in their home, according to a written statement from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information provided by the Maryland Department of Human Resources, an article yesterday misstated the number of children in foster care. The correct number is 7,000.
For most foster parents, that will mean an increase in compensation from $535 a month per child to $560 a month.
"Money does not fully compensate our foster parents, but this increase is just one way to show that we value what they do," said Ehrlich in the statement. "Maryland is fortunate to have a number of outstanding foster parents who raise children to become model citizens."
The move to improve compensation for foster parents comes at a time when the state is eager to recruit new families. Maryland has lost a large number of foster families in recent years because of an aging roster of foster parents as well as complaints by such parents of a lack of support from foster care officials. Reimbursement also has been a problem.
"It has been a long time since foster parents received an increase, and I am pleased that this administration is able to provide a well-deserved raise," said Christopher J. McCabe, secretary of the Department of Human Resources. Compensation is based on the costs of care for a foster child and does not reimburse foster parents for their time. The position is voluntary.
Last summer, McCabe's agency, which oversees foster care in the state, held conferences with foster parents to discuss ways to improve the system. The state is about to launch a marketing campaign to reach out to prospective foster parents.
In Maryland, about 10,500 children need state-funded care and services outside their homes. About 2,000 of them live with foster families. Most children are placed in foster care because of abuse, neglect or other family problems. A majority of them return home to their parents eventually.