State Cuts Foster Care Funding By 10 Percent, Local Family Says State Is Taking More

By Laura Donaldson

June 18, 2010 Updated Jan 5, 2010 at 6:09 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Some foster care parents say they're struggling even more this year because foster care funding by the state is being cut by 10 percent in 2010.

But Mark and Michelle Pratt, a couple who adopted 14-year-old Kaylin, say the state is taking more than 10 percent.

“We've always felt like it's our job to speak up for her because she can't speak for herself,” Mark Pratt said.

Pratt is speaking out for his adoptive daughter, Kaylin, who was born with cerebral palsy and can’t speak or use her upper or lower body. The Pratts adopted Kaylin when she was eight. They say the foster care system was going to place her in a group home because of her healthcare costs. But Michelle Pratt says she didn’t want to see her in a group home.

“The judge said she was un-adoptable because of all her medical needs,” Michelle Pratt said. “But I don’t believe in that. I don’t think any child is un-adoptable.”

The family has been in and out of hospitals to care for Kaylin, but they spend most of their time in a custom home they built with her in mind.

“It was built with handicap access,” Michelle Pratt said. “It was built with a hospital room and a separate electrical circuit for Kalyin's medical equipment.”

But the Pratts say they will have a difficult time paying for the house and medical bills now because the state of Indiana is cutting 10 percent of funding given to foster care parents. And, after doing some research, Michelle Pratt says more than 10 percent is actually being taken.

Pratt says foster care parents get 75 percent of their funding from the federal government and 25 percent from the state. Michelle says state officials are actually taking 10 percent of the total amount of funding, from federal and state, not just from the state's contribution.

“It maybe legal, but not moral to cut money from these kids and from families like us,” Mark Pratt said. “We think that there are other areas they can look at and if it had to be done we'd like to know it was the last resort but we can't even get an answer.”

Officials with the Department of Child Services say they can't discuss the issue because the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is filing a lawsuit on behalf of foster parents due to the payment changes.

“I am unable to discuss the pending litigation,” Director of Communications for the Indiana Department of Child Services Ann Houseworth said. “We are hopeful for quick resolution of these matters and look forward to continued partnerships with those committed to helping us protect the safety of Indiana's children.”

Officials with the ACLU and DCS will be in court later this month.

Meanwhile, the Pratts say they will continue to provide the best care possible for their adoptive daughter.

“She always has a smile on her face no matter how hard it gets and so when you look at her, it's worth it no matter what we have or don't have,” Mark Pratt said. “As long as we can care for her in the proper way, that's what we're concerned about.”


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