NC needs to do better job of protecting foster parents

Foster parents provide their time and love to protect the most vulnerable in our state. It is time for the General Assembly to help protect the foster parents.

There are approximately 10,000 children in foster care in North Carolina. Finding qualified foster parents is an ongoing challenge due to the time commitment, the emotional rollercoaster and limited compensation. Foster parents receive about $18 per day to partially reimburse for the expenses of feeding, clothing and caring. Individuals interested in becoming foster parents must undergo several months of training, a home inspection, interviews and a detailed background check. It is time consuming and a bit invasive, but it is necessary to make sure that the foster parents are qualified and have the resources to care for a child.

Raising children under the best of circumstances can be a challenging situation. Being responsible for someone else’s child whom you know very little about is even more challenging. Considering we live in a litigious society where people are all too willing to try and sue, foster parents also face the threat of lawsuits. Foster parents can be held financially responsible for the acts of the foster children in their care. They can also be sued by the biological parent for accidental injuries to the children. They have little to no coverage under their Homeowners Insurance Policy, so any losses would be paid out of their own personal assets.

Most other states have a program in place to protect foster parents. In South Carolina, the state buys a Foster Parent Liability Insurance Policy to protect all licensed foster parents. Oklahoma just passed an amendment to its Foster Parent’s Bill of Rights that requires copy of the liability insurance to be provided to foster parents. Georgia, Massachusetts and Arkansas protect foster parents basically the same as state employees. North Carolina is one of only 13 states that do not have any sort of protection for foster parents. This is a serious disincentive to serve as a foster parent at a time when they are so desperately needed.

Serving as a foster parent can be an incredibly rewarding, and at times heartbreaking, experience. Though emotional challenges are expected, foster parents shouldn’t be expected to put financial security on the line, too. Our state legislators need to find a solution that encourages highly qualified people to serve.

Dr. David Marlett and Jamie Anderson, JD, are professors in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University.

They are also foster parents. For more information, visit the American Consumer Institute at www.theamericanconsumer.org.