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Foster parents have right to fair reimbursement, court rules

August 30, 2010 |  1:16 pm

Foster parents have a legal right to compensation for the actual cost of providing children with housing, food, clothing and other care required by the state, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state was violating the Child Welfare Act by failing to adequately compensate foster parents caring for about 13,000 wards of the state of California. The court last year found the state similarly remiss in its reimbursements to institutions that care for the majority of California's 90,000 foster children.

Average monthly compensation by the California Department of Social Services is about $520, while the costs for care and services specified by the state run well over $900 a month on average, said Marc Peters, a Palo Alto lawyer who represented the foster parents in their suit.

The ruling doesn't have the power to compel the state to change its compensation formula, Peters said. But it should put pressure on the state to correct the deficiencies or face possible loss of federal funds that augment the state payments, Peters said.

The state agency had challenged only the foster parents' assertion that the federal statute entitles them to sue for fair compensation, not a lower court's finding that the state's payments were inadequate.

Susan M. Carson of the attorney general's office declined to comment on the appeals court ruling.

-- Carol J. Williams