UnionMaine

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Breaking News and Broken Promises

  Editor: This was a long post and a great one. Remember the first Star Wars where you got to meet Darth Vader? In this post you got to meet a real life villain. In my opinion you got to meet someone who does not care what happens to kids, whose only concern is for political advancement and if he has to lift himself up by stepping on kids his only comment will be “Hold still you little brat!” Excuse the outburst, I get angry when anyone tries to hurt kids. Tom Maher

The post may be gone, but the attempt to hurt foster and adoptive kids goes on.

THIS POST REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF THE AUTHOR.

January 31st, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Foster Children | 5 comments

Breaking News and Broken Promises

POST REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF THE AUTHOR.

January 31st, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | no comments

Aw Shucks or Shock and Awe?

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THIS BED UNSLEPT IN.

Hallowell Maine: By Mark Katz
Remember Rodney Dangerfield? No respect! Reminds me of the tax-paying, voting, hard-working Mainers who open their hearts and homes to “State Kids.” Did anyone notice when DHHS-OCFS Licensing recently reduced the annual training requirements for Treatment Foster Parents? Being part of the professional team is now more clearly understood to mean being the bat boy; how much training do they need? The lack of respect accorded providers was further emphasized by our exclusion from any planning discussions prior to the commissioner shipping these draconian recommendations off to the governor.

Now, theoretically and in their PR the agencies represent themselves as advocates for the foster homes with whom they sub-contract as well as for the children these homes serve. It is remarkable how readily this partnership begins to split when the purse-strings are pulled. Even our current contentious crop of candidates does not hold a candle to the expertise within the bureaucracy at unraveling erstwhile alliances. When push comes to shove, the expectation appears to be for an “each man for himself” mentality in which each stick snaps individually once the strength of the bundle is lost.

Agencies realize that private-practice therapists will continue to serve children as MaineCare providers. Major habilitation resources have already been absorbed by the department in the form of “rec funds.” Most treatment foster parents are already competent case managers. Neither the Child Welfare Training Institute nor the State Employees Training Unit have yet announced a discontinuation of trainings for foster parents. Team meetings can be held at home and in DHHS offices. Arranging respite accommodations … oh, I almost forgot. The only crucial element remaining and the one that can not be replaced is the foster home.

Of course, I hope that my agency survives. But just in case, save some blank forms; you can reproduce them on your home computer. Buy a hundred-dollar, all-in-one printer/copier/scanner/fax and you will have all the right stuff. Then, if you are wise you may wish to follow the example set last year by Maine’s child-care providers; call MSEA or the SEIU and ask them to add your name to the growing ranks of Treatment Foster Care providers who are ready to organize and enter negotiations as a united front with bargaining power. You should also learn more about the State Ombudsman for Children at the Maine Children’s Alliance and about your local legislators. You may need help protecting the kids as the proverbial snow hits the blower.

Alternatively, we might collectively sigh, “Aw shucks” and just leave the State’s business to the State.

Editor: Mark Katz is rapidly becoming the voice of the Foster Adoptive parents of Maine.

He doesn’t use poor me language, he doesn’t ask for handouts. He points out that we have promised to help and love these children and now we are dumping them because their care has become a luxury.

January 30th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Foster Children, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Aw Shucks or Shock and Awe?


Reprinted with permission from Mark Katz

Hallowell

Remember Rodney Dangerfield? No respect! Reminds me of the tax-paying, voting, hard-working Mainers who open their hearts and homes to “State Kids.” Did anyone notice when DHHS-OCFS Licensing recently reduced the annual training requirements for Treatment Foster Parents?

To continue reading this article please go to UnionMaine.Org

January 30th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Adoptive care, Foster Children, MSEA ELECTIONS, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Mark Katz, UNIONMAINE, cuts for kids, foster care | no comments

The Unplanned Impact of the Supplemental Budget on Treatment Foster Families and Children

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THIS BEAR UNLOVED

Hallowell Maine: Mark Katz
The licensing division of the Office of Children and Family Services at DHHS as well as provider agencies contracting with licensed homes for treatment level care have long recognized that many children in state custody need a full-time parent at home. In the rules, both the department and agencies have explicitly acknowledged that reimbursement dollars may be used in determining the financial fitness of foster families. This has allowed many families, perhaps the vast majority, to open their homes to children and youth placed at treatment levels of care and to provide at least one full-time parent.

Children in specialized care have very busy schedules. In order that self-worth, social development, and general health be assured, enhanced, and preserved, children are encouraged and supported in the same normalizing activities engaged in by their peers. Ask any average soccer Mom about down-time. Imagine adding to this schedule by introducing weekly psychotherapy, habilitation services, psychiatric management and appointments, team meetings, P.E.T. and IEP meetings at school, meetings with caseworkers, family visits, visits by case managers, agency-supervised group activities, and one-hundred-and-fifty mile car trips to a MaineCare orthodontist. For teenagers, add on leadership trainings, advocacy groups, and community education and public speaking engagements.

Review a Specialized Foster Parents day-timer. In a typical month it is not unusual for fifty per cent of his or her weekdays to include doctors appointments, school appointments, planning meetings, trainings, advisory committees, ad hoc consultations and conferences, and an array of other responsibilities vital to the child(ren) in his care. Especially at the higher levels of care, these obligations during normal working hours make it difficult if not impossible for a treatment foster parent to find and to hold even part-time jobs outside of the home. Where there is a working spouse at home during the night, it may be possible for the primary foster parent to work the night shift. Naturally, the resulting sleep deficits will increase burn-out rates and downtime due to illness. Where patience, equanimity, empathy, alertness, and quick response times are the bread-and-butter of quality care, sleep deprivation is not what the doctor ordered.

The M.A.R.C. report released by the University of Maryland and the National Association of Public Welfare Administrators in October of 2007 provides a state-by-state analysis of the Minimum Acceptable Rates for Children in regular foster care. The results represent the minimal room and board or maintenance costs for children without special needs. Moreover, the MARC includes only expenses for which states would be eligible to receive federal funding under Title IV-E Maintenance and excludes other actual expenses incurred by foster parents which are not covered under those guidelines as well as excluding costs which can be defrayed by other federal funding sources, e.g. Title IV-E Administration and Title XIX Medicaid.

Adjusted for inflation and factoring in the recent rise in energy and food costs, the MARC for Maine youth is well over thirty dollars per day. This is the minimum amount that must be subtracted from a foster homes daily rate before calculating any contribution to offset opportunity cost. Here, opportunity cost refers to the lost wages incurred by a foster parent who must decline employment in order to care for a child in state custody. For most families, these are the wages that could be applied to local property taxes, health care and insurances, property maintenance, and dinner out at the local Chinese restaurant once every month or two.

In Maine, Level C refers to the lowest level of treatment foster care. This describes a child with emotional, mental, behavioral, and/or medical needs which are different from the norms for his or her age group and developmental stage. Under the Supplemental Budget proposed by the Governor for FY 2008-2009, the daily rate for a child at Level C is to be reduced to thirty dollars (a 30% reduction from current rates.) By lowering thermostats, using local food pantries, and reducing discretionary travel, most households may be able to cover minimum costs on this budget. They will not, of course, be able to offset any of their basic costs of living nor additional costs incurred as a result of the increased level of care. Primary foster parents with a child or children at Level C will probably be allowed by the licensing authority to apply for the weekend, night-shift as a Direct Support Provider, CNA, Personal Support Specialist, or CRMA medications assistant at a nursing home or residential facility in order that they may continue to meet mortgage and other expenses necessary to maintain their homes. All they will lose is sleep but, inevitably, it is the neediest child(ren) who will feel this loss the most.

At Level D, under the proposed new rates, the typical treatment foster home will receive nearly three-thousand dollars annually above the MARC rate. In many cases, this eight dollar daily increment will suffice to cover the increased costs associated with the substantially higher level of care. Some of this may even be applied to occasional respite care and other un-reimbursed costs. Again, the proposed rate provides no contribution to offset other basic expenses. Note also, the increased rate does not apply during the first three months of care for a child entering the system and that many children at this level will remain in placement for only six to nine months. Some foster parents will be successful locating employers who are willing to employ them on again, off again, for several weeks between placements. Many will not.

Interestingly, the legislature and human services planners and advocates have acknowledged recently the important contribution made by para-professional, direct-support providers. Such acknowledgment is a response to the potential amplification of the current care gap resulting from demographic and socio-economic currents. Legislation to increase access to health insurance and to elevate wages above minimum-wage rates has been passed to assist in the recruitment and retention of care-givers for children, adults, and seniors needing supports in the activities of daily living. Maine PASA, the Personal Assistance Services Association, continues to advocate and lobby for both caregivers and for those they serve. Also, this past year saw successful organizing efforts among those independent providers offering child care. These providers are now represented by MSEA and the SEIU.

Without effective organization and representation, the independent contractors providing treatment and care under foster home models continue to fall further behind. These trained providers assume responsibilities of case management, direct support, health-care, and behavioral management as well as the administrative and fiscal responsibilities associated with maintaining their facilities. MR Waiver programs for individuals with cognitive disabilities and Treatment Foster Care for youth remain the forgotten warriors, asked to further and disproportionately shoulder the increasing burden of limited resources. The true costs of a failure to support the care-givers is borne by the children and citizens already most at risk. You need not be an architect to understand that by diverting our attention from the foundation, we accelerate and guarantee the collapse of an entire structure. When we fail our children and families we fail the future of the entire social order, cradle and all.

Current curtailments and the proposed Supplemental Budget apply sledge hammers to the granite and mortar of our Treatment Care for the already traumatized children in state custody. Certainly, we must have learned by now that when the towers fall, we will all shudder.

Mark Katz

Hallowell

idotnet@roadrunner.com

January 22, 2008

January 29th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Foster Children, Uncategorized | 4 comments

The Unplanned Impact of the Supplemental Budget on Treatment Foster Families and Children

Hallowell Maine

The licensing division of the Office of Children and Family Services at DHHS as well as provider agencies contracting with licensed homes for treatment level care have long recognized that many children in state custody need a full-time parent at home. In the rules, both the department and agencies have explicitly acknowledged that reimbursement dollars may be used in determining the financial fitness of foster families. This has allowed many families, perhaps the vast majority, to open their homes to children and youth placed at treatment levels of care and to provide at least one full-time parent. EDITOR: Now Foster care is under attack by the DHHS.

To read more go here.

Remember to sign up at UnionMaine.Org as this site will be phased out in a few months.


January 29th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Adoptive care, Foster Children, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, UNIONMAINE, cuts for kids, foster care, msea maine | no comments

Hollywood Needs Writers, the Theater Needs Agents What Does Foster Care Need?

Hallowell Free associate for a few moments. If I ask you to think, Agents, does the word Secret come to mind? Or perhaps, Special or Intelligence or Real Estate? Agent of Change, maybe? In a recent survey, not a single respondent said, Foster Family-based Treatment, yet these agencies contract with over a thousand Maine, independent contractors to perform one of the most challenging and valuable jobs within our state. More than fifteen million dollars becomes multiplied through our local economies each year because of these jobs. Because of this work, children are kept in school, young teens avoid pregnancy, defiant kids don’t enter the criminal justice system as addicts or sociopaths, families get a second chance at reunification, children get a second chance and are released from restrictive, institutional settings, and a generational gap is bridged baby boomers learn to appreciate Hannah Montana; teens learn where Montana is (and may get a family trip of a lifetime to our national parks.)

So, think about it. How many Secret Agents do you know working in Maine? How about the Intelligence levels? In a season when change is the mantra derigueur, why are our most important Agents of Change, those who work with our most vulnerable children, so unlikely to enter our stream of consciousness? Is it any surprise that policy makers should view Foster Family-based Treatment Agencies, if they think of them at all, as just another piece of infrastructure; and as fungible at that?

Our Child Welfare System views these private agencies as financial conduits, administrative service providers, and as recruiting agents. Bureaucrats see what they know; it is comfortable to relegate these business roles to non-governmental agents so long as they are accountable to the fiscal bottom-line. Efficiency becomes the sine qua non. Today, as in the Years of the Longley, the focus is on the number of typewriters; the particular end-products, the services delivered and the quality of outcomes are left to ride shotgun. Efficiency is in the drivers seat, not Effectiveness.

Please focus now. Trained and committed specialized foster parents are the heart and soul, the cerebrum and muscle, behind good outcomes. Can they represent themselves and the children? Can they access services through private and public practitioners? Can they find information and problem-solve? And, can they organize to advocate effectively for their needs? Or, do they need paid agents to do these things for them? Are they tinkers or tailors?

Mark Katz

January 26, 2008

January 28th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Foster Children | no comments

Hollywood Needs Writers, the Theater Needs Agents What Does Foster Care Need?

Hallowell

Mark Katz is a nationally recognized systems analyst with special interests in health-care and pediatric mental health delivery. Before settling in the China area in the early seventies he was a National Science Foundation Fellow and doctoral student at M.I.T. with concentrations in neurophysiology and psychology.

He is currently the CEO, cook, and dish-washer of a licensed Treatment Foster Home and is certified in Behavioral Health.

Free associate for a few moments. If I ask you to think, Agents, does the word Secret come to mind? Or perhaps, Special or Intelligence or Real Estate? Agent of Change, maybe? In a recent survey, not a single respondent said, Foster Family-based Treatment, yet these agencies contract with over a thousand Maine, independent contractors to perform one of the most challenging and valuable jobs within our state.

For the rest of the story as told by this remarkable advocate for Foster Children go to Http:UnionMaine.Org

January 28th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Adoptive care, FAIR SHARE, cuts for kids | one comment

Reneging on Respite Reimbursement

Hallowell — Give Me a Break! Reneging on Respite Reimbursement

Grandma is in the hospital for hip surgery. Mom is recovering from a hysterectomy. Dad needs a weekend to repair the flooding damage and broken windows from Johnny’s melt-down on Thursday. Johnny needs a break from Mom and Dad and all their stupid rules before he has another melt-down. Rover needs recovery time from the unexpected kick in the head Johnny gave him. The neighbors are celebrating a major anniversary and would appreciate a little quiet next door.

Children who have been removed from their families because of sexual abuse, or because they have been stepping on discarded hypodermics with heroin residue, or because Mommy has not fed them in three days and Daddy is busy smoking pot and watching porno are not simply your average, energetic kids seeking identity and independence. Kids who have lived lives of abuse and neglect have some special challenges and special needs by the time they enter State custody.

The men and women who volunteer to love these children, to bring them into their homes, to parent them, to be their therapists, nurses, special-order cooks, teachers, spiritual supports, advocates, coaches, and crisis managers also have some special challenges and special needs. They can not simply call Aunt Susie to request she take Johnny for the weekend. Johnny would eat her alive.

Until recently, the State of Maine (the legal guardian for these kids) has been willing to pay trained and licensed families two to three dollars an hour to provide specialized Respite Care when foster parents and their children need a break. As of February 1, foster parents will be required to fend for themselves under the governors budget curtailment and new Supplemental Budget.

Remember, Governor, the State is the guardian of these fragile lives and Tim Sample is only kidding when he describes duct tape as a solution to our problems. Any savings you imagine may be realized by yanking supports from foster children and their treatment families will certainly be consumed in multiples by the resulting burn-outs. You may need to spend your savings at the Fire Marshalls Office.

Mark Katz

January 27, 2008

January 28th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Foster Children | 2 comments

Mark Katz an Advocate for Foster Kids

Mark Katz has kindly offered to let me use his writing for this Blog. When you finish reading his writing you may want to elect him to office. The trouble is I think he is too intelligent to fall for it. Hallowell — Give Me a Break!

Reneging on Respite Reimbursement

Grandma is in the hospital for hip surgery. Mom is recovering from a hysterectomy. Dad needs a weekend to repair the flooding damage and broken windows from Johnny’s melt-down on Thursday. Johnny needs a break from Mom and Dad and all their stupid rules before he has another melt-down. Rover needs recovery time from the unexpected kick in the head Johnny gave him. The neighbors are celebrating a major anniversary and would appreciate a little quiet next door.

For the complete post, go to Http://WWW.UnionMaine.Org

I am going to do something I don’t normally do. I am going to post several posts in a rapid series.
The first hearings on the “Cuts for Kids” campaign are to be held by the appropriations committee this Friday. I will be there.

If you want to read more of Mark’s writing, leave a comment.

January 28th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Adoptive care, Foster Children, Mark Katz, cuts for kids, foster care | no comments