Until the proper care of Louisiana’s children in foster care becomes a priority in Baton Rouge, children in our state’s foster care system will continue to be among the most under-supported in the nation.

If you consider how children in foster care are indirectly used by politicians in state budget arguments, you will see they do indeed have political value. Rather than being recipients of sufficient care, they become persuasion chips. The cost associated with protecting and caring for children in foster care is frequently tossed onto the scales by one party or another in Baton Rouge to promote reducing costs or increasing revenue.

I believe this is wrong. If anything, it is a sign we do not value foster children enough nor do we understand our responsibilities for their care.

Clearly, there are moral, ethical, financial, humanitarian and religious reasons to care well for children in foster care. Until Louisiana’s foster children are supported simply for these principled reasons, they will be our state’s political shame.

In Louisiana, we have not yet determined how to do right for our neediest children. On one hand, because they are persistent objects of our sympathy, their perceived value in political persuasion is strong. On the other, because they have no vote, they have no political voice. Their own power is very weak.

Some have reported child protective services cannot withstand another round of spending reductions without causing problems. We all know this is true. In fact, these kids are already swamped by problems!

Today, we send children in foster care out of state. We put them on the street at 18 and ill-prepared for independence. We require they spend nights in state offices because we have insufficient resources for their emergency care. We under staff their cases. We eliminate necessary services. At $16.70 a day, we under fund their care.

If I am not wrong, our state provides less support for foster parents than any other.(1) It costs more per day to board a dog in Louisiana than we spend to care for a foster child. How can we further discount the needs of these children by putting their care in the balance?

Elected officials, pull foster children off the scales and be courageous enough to say, “Whatever else happens in this state, Louisiana will care for her foster children.”

Do you not see? Rather than using children in foster care as a political game piece in budget negotiations, Louisiana’s elected officials must make a firm and abiding commitment to care well for our foster children.

Louisiana, take foster children off the political table and ensure they always receive the care they require. Anything less is just a game … and in Louisiana it will be our foster children who lose.

Rick Wheat, President and Chief Executive Officer
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services, Inc.

(1) Family Foster Care Reimbursement Rates in the U.S.

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