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State Agrees to 'New Deal' for Adult Foster Homes

August 8, 2008

Coos Bay, OR – Operators of Oregon's adult foster homes will be voting this month on whether to ratify a contract with the State of Oregon. If they do, they'll be the first adult care providers in the nation to be working under a collective bargaining agreement.

Foster caregivers have argued that they can't get by on what they receive from Medicaid, while a recent Governor's Commission agreed that more homes will go out of business if the economics don't change.

Steve Hebert of Coos Bay, a caregiver who was co-chair of the bargaining team, says the agreement means more money, but also calls for staff training and rules that he believes would result in better care.

"There is a new dignity for the foster homes. They are providing a service for the state, and they're doing the work that the other portions of the care continuum are doing, for one-half the cost or even less."

Hebert says adult foster care will still be a bargain for the state budget, even when the contract allows $260 more per month for each foster care resident. The deal took seven months to negotiate, and affects about 3,500 care providers around the state. Some are small businesses, Hebert explains; others are family members caring for seniors or disabled individuals.

"It's a breakthrough that is the most wonderful thing that has occurred, for both the aging clients and the foster homes. I think it's the most wonderful thing that's ever happened."

The contract was negotiated with the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Department of Administrative Services. Last year, the homes voted to will be part of SEIU, the Service Employees' International Union, Local 503, which also represents nursing home workers. The contract ratification vote will take place at regional meetings over the next couple of weeks.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR