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Westmoreland County foster parents' per-diem payment to increase

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Foster parents in Westmoreland County will be getting a raise.

County commissioners on Thursday approved an increase in the per-diem payment to foster parents to keep up with increasing child care costs and dwindling participation among adults needed to care for children.

“This is an incentive for more families to get involved and care for young people,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas.

The increase, which takes effecton July 1, is the first in five years.

Per diem rates will increase to $30 for children under 12, $35 to care for those age 12 to 15, $50 for juveniles 16 through 18, and $25 for college-age foster children.

“The cost of everything is going up. It's necessary to keep this program going,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said.

The raises will be paid to foster parents who contract directly with the county. Nearly half of Westmoreland County children in foster care are in the custody of parents who work for private-service providers that have contracts with the county.

There are currently 575 children in foster care, with 291 placed in homes overseen directly by the county. Another 284 children are placed in homes overseen by 17 private-service providers.

The private foster homes negotiate separate per diem rates with the county. For instance, commissioners on Thursday approved a new contract with Adelphoi Village Inc. for a new per diem rate for foster care at nearly $81.

“There is a national crisis for foster parents. They are hard to attract,” said Dirk Matson, the county's director of human services. “The raises are incentive to attract more foster parents.”

Last year, the county spent $2.7 million for foster care, about $400,000 less than was paid in 2011.

Commissioners budgeted $2.8 million for foster care this year.

Matson said changes could be made to bring the entire foster care program under county control. “The county is exploring whether it is fiscally feasible to move kids from private to county foster care,” he said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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