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Unionize (Foster) Parents!

June 26, 2006 permalink

A Washington State couple wants to organize foster parents into a union. Imagine your children cared for with the gentle sensitivities of the union hall! Of course, this is a response to persistent maltreatment of fosters by the social services system. Maybe the next step is to let natural parents join the same union.



Foster parents want to unionize

Organizing could help change Washington state rules and secure better benefits, supporters say.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Daniele Baxter, who has opened her home to more than 700 abused and neglected children over the past two decades, carries a business card that lists her occupation as "professional parent."

Child with foster parents
Jim Bryant / Associated Press

Foster child Duane Fisher, 18, right, helps bake cookies with his foster parents Mike and Beth Canfield. He has lived since he was 5 with the Canfields, who are trying to establish a foster parents union. See full image

The full-time foster parent hopes to become a genuine card-carrying union member as well.

She and others are trying to organize what is believed to be the nation's first union of foster parents, and hope to win the right to bargain with state government.

They want to establish higher training and education standards and create an experienced, professional corps of foster parents. They also hope to secure better compensation, including retirement benefits and perhaps medical insurance. That, in turn, could reduce the high turnover in their ranks that results in youngsters being bounced from one foster home to another, they say.

"We really are the professionals in this field," said Baxter's husband, Steve Baxter. "When you have a really hard job to do, who do you call in? You call in the union plumber, the union carpenter -- and the union foster parent."

Washington state's Children's Administration, which oversees foster care, has refused to say what it thinks about the effort to organize the state's estimated 6,000 foster parents.

Daniele Baxter said foster parents are signing up in droves. But she would not give numbers. The foster parents would be part of the Washington Federation of State Employees, an AFL-CIO affiliate that is the largest union representing Washington state government workers.

"If we do it right here, I think it will set a pattern around the country," said Greg Devereux, director of the state workers union.

The National Foster Parent Association has not taken a position.

Source: Detroit News