Bill eliminates DHS jobs but boosts foster care funding

A bill in Lansing could bring much needed financial support to foster families right here in northern Michigan, but it also would eliminate dozens of employees with the Department of Human Services.

Cheryl Buyze has certified 170 foster parents for child and family services of Northwestern Michigan. For eight years, those families haven't been given an increase in pay from the state even though the costs of living has gone up. House bill 5374 would change that.

Cherl Buyze Licensing Supervisor Northwestern Michigan, "Every little bit helps and we can look at our own jobs and occupation its nice when people recognize the work you are doing."

If approved, starting in July families would get an additional three dollars per child per day. Right now the state pays $10.78 a day for young children and $13.27 to take in teenagers. This bill would bump the payment to $13.78 and $16.27 a day.

Jim Scherrer, CEO of Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan says, "To compensate families that take in children is really important. Many of their expenses and gas prices have gone up."

The bill would also increase administrative payments at private child placing agencies by $5 per child per day, The county would have to eliminate it's match rate to receive this increase.

Scherrer says, "This would be an important rate adjustment for organizations like us. Over the years there have been several mandated adjustments in our caseload and more expactations that cost money. Having the rate increase would help us afford those changes."

While private agencies would benefit from the bill, state agencies would not. The bill recommends the elimination of 64 full time DHS case workers.

State Representative Dave Agema says,"My job is to make sure our money is being spent wisely. If DHS costs more than privates, it makes sense to go with private."

Recent data shows there are currently 13,700 child welfare cases, but taxpayers are paying for up to 15,000.

Representative Agema says "We discovered we were paying for some things we shouldn't have to, and in some areas we weren't paying enough."