Foster parents face long wait list for childcare funding

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - There is an increasing need among children in Indiana who are removed from their homes and face uncertain futures. Some are even spending nights in Department of Child Services offices around the state as case workers try to find them more permanent placements.

But, many foster parents say they have empty beds and want to help. Those parents say the delay in childcare funding is preventing them from taking in more children.

Foster parents in Indiana qualify for a federal fund that helps offset that costs of childcare for a foster child. The fund is overseen by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). As of September 2017, there were 8,832 families on the wait list for that financial assistance - not all of them foster families.

Danielle Burris took in her first foster child in June. She said she still has not received any funding for childcare.

"I’m not holding my breath but I just continue to care for this little guy as a best as I can and hope that something comes through," Burris said.

She is now a single mother who is working full time and uses her entire daily foster allowance on daycare.

"I’m licensed for two children but as of right now I’m so far in the negative with daycare that I can’t foresee taking in another kiddo in the future because of this childcare crisis," Burris said.

The program Burris is referring to is called the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). The federal program assists low-income and foster families with childcare expenses so the parents can work or attend school. A spokesperson for the FSSA said they try to serve as many Hoosier families as possible but the demand is high the funding is limited.

"At this point, you’re just waiting for kiddos to go home, open up spots and to give other people chances," Burris said. "The wait list is imaginably so long that it could be several more months before see any funding."

The potential wait time is keeping Mary Thomas, of Hendricks County, from bringing another foster child into her home even though she would like to do so.

"The cost of childcare for that upfront is just more than we could pocket right now including whatever items they need when they arrive," Thomas said. "It’s not even like a break even because then you have clothing and extra events."

These parents say a change is needed to make sure kids are in stable, safe places.

"There are homes with beds open, with hearts open," Burris said. "We are more than ready to take on the challenge of helping these kids out. Childcare shouldn’t be the thing that gets in the way of that."

A Department of Child Services spokesperson said they are aware of the childcare funding issue and are working with lawmakers to try to come up with a solution.

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