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VA law prevents utility shutoffs in extreme circumstances; MI construction industry responds to a high number of worker suicides; 500,000 still without power or water in the Houston area; KY experts: Children, and babies at higher risk for heat illness.

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The House passes the SAVE Act, but fails to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and a proposed federal budget could doom much-needed public services.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

NY legislation would end parents paying for foster care

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Wednesday, February 14, 2024   

A bill in the New York State Legislature could alter how the foster care system operates in the state by ending the requirement for parents to pay for their child's stay in foster care.

New York collected more than 2 million in 2021 from low-income parents with children in foster care. The so-called "maintenance payments" include a 9% interest rate.

Jill Berrick, professor of social welfare professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who tracks this issue, noted half of the families make less than $10,000 per year.

"That means that half of their meager monthly income, they may be handing over $10 a month, $25 a month, $50 a month, $100 a month," Berrick outlined. "Any of these increments, as you can well imagine, can turn a family's finances upside down."

She added the bill faces little opposition, with many in the child welfare system supporting it. If it does not pass, Berrick noted taxpayers will continue footing the bill for most payments, since parents are usually unable to make them. California, Michigan, Montana and Washington have already taken action to end systems like this. The bill is now in the New York Senate Judiciary Committee.

Federal law required state child welfare agencies to collect payments from parents with children in foster care "when appropriate." In 2022, the Administration for Children and Families issued new guidance urging local agencies not to pursue such payments.

Berrick emphasized the current system puts some families in situations risking being able to get a child out of foster care.

"Maybe they were making their rent payments but now they don't have enough money for rent so they lose their apartment," Berrick explained. "And then the judge said, 'Well, you don't have a home for your kid to come back to.' So, when they make the payments, it extends kids' stay in foster care."

About three in four New York children in foster care "age out" of the system rather than find a permanent home, which is well over the national average of 52%. The number one reason kids enter foster care is neglect, which some child advocates say could be related to the poverty families face making it difficult for them to care for their children.


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