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January 21, 2006 permalink
It is not only natural parents who can be deadbeat dads. Here is a child protection agency that fails to pay for its wards.
Foster parents say they're owed money
Dozens of New York City and Long Island foster parents say they have been cheated out of thousands of dollars to care for abused or neglected children placed in their care by the city's embattled Administration for Children's Services.
In an effort to crack down on problems with private foster care agencies that funnel money from the city agency to families, the city terminated contracts with several of the agencies. Some families say the agencies were only paying them a fraction of what they were legally owed.
"The city has to make due and reimburse us for any money that is outstanding," said Catherine Walker, 52, of Massapequa, a former foster mother of seven children who said New York City owes her nearly $150,000. She ultimately adopted the seven special needs children, who require round-the-clock care, but was reimbursed by the city at a lower rate that didn't account for disabilities that she said range from attention deficit disorder to mild retardation.
The city agency has come in for heavy criticism since the Jan. 11 death of Nixzmary Brown, 7, whose case was under ACS investigation for months before her stepfather allegedly killed her. The foster care complaints come on the heels of a federal review that said the cases of New York State's foster children aren't being reviewed enough.
The city spends about $200 million annually on contracts with foster agencies for the estimated 17,000 children in foster care. The number of city foster children is at an all-time low, reflecting a policy shift that aims to keep families together.
The rate paid to a foster parent to care for a child who does not require special services is $17.49 a day, or more than $500 a month, city officials said. A family caring for a child with special needs is eligible to receive about $1,000 a month per child, depending on the child's age.
"I'm very frustrated. I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Walker said, explaining she lost her job as a counselor to homeless people because of absences incurred by shuttling the children to and from medical appointments. Last week, a Brooklyn Family Court hearing officer ruled that the city must reimburse her.
"If the court has ruled that the city owes money to the foster parent, it's our job to ensure we comply with that," ACS spokeswoman Lisi deBourbon said. She said the agency can't comment on specific cases.
One of the agencies that placed the children with Walker was terminated by the city in February, deBourbon said. Walker also said she still is owed money from 1995 from an agency the city ended its relationship with in 1997.
Such contract terminations have left foster parents with little recourse.
Eugene and Betty Moses of Roosevelt were awarded $16,000 by Brooklyn Family Court after an ACS-contracted agency paid them only the average daily rate for their foster children, ages 5, 7 and 9, even though they later were determined to be eligible for a higher "special needs" stipend.
"One of the boys shoved a pencil into his ear and then later tried to kill himself with a scissors," said Eugene Moses, 61. Moses said he blames the city for not adequately assessing his needs. "We had to learn the hard way," he said.