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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Alberta Darling: Even I Don't Like The Job I've Done

by capper

As I had noted previously, in 1996, Alberta Darling, along with her fellow Republicans, at the marching orders of then-Governor Tommy Thompson added a clause to the budget bill, taking over the child welfare system in Milwaukee County. Their rationale was that, even though independent audits had shown the foster care system to be grossly underfunded, that they could do a better job at running the system than Milwaukee County had.

In 1998, the state took over, creating the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) and began to privatize the system. By the end of 2001, they had it all but completely privatized, with contracts to no less than five different agencies. They also increased the budget for Milwaukee County's child welfare system by some $35 million. At that time, the standard payment to a foster parent of a child less than three years old was $292 per month.

In this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there is an article that reports the payment to foster parents has skyrocketed up to $317 per month. That is $25 per month, or a .o9% increase, in six years. Not exactly a great big lot of help.

Now, I will admit that I don't have children myself, but I did work in the child welfare system. I know that the cost to raise a child is pretty high. It becomes higher when the child has been abused and neglected, as that child will have some serious emotional and sometimes physical issues that need to be contended with. There is the need for special medical equipment, extra time is needed for meetings with social workers, attorneys, advocates, doctors and other professionals that would not be in the life of a healthy child, and there is the damage that can occur when an emotionally scarred child acts out.

And, based on conversations that I have had with people that are still working in the system, foster parents are not getting a lot of support from BMCW. Their requests for extra services are ignored, their complaints fall on deaf ears, and they are often left with an inexperienced worker, or no worker at all.

Foster parents do one of the hardest jobs in the world. They take in someone else's child that has been neglected, physically abused, and/or sexually abused, and they give it a loving home, nurturing and an affection that is totally alien to what they have had previously experienced. They don't do it for accolades, or money, or any reason other than they love children.

So, where is all that extra money going? Well, there is the administration of all these different agencies, and their own spending issues, including $9,000 for a conference table. There is also a faulty computer system, the lawsuits, and the ongoing internal audits done by the state to tell itself there are no problems, even though everyone else can see them. Oh, and there is the inefficiencies of the private agencies.

The article goes on to report that State Senator Alberta Darling, the same person who helped give birth to this monster, and is on the advisory board, which is supposed to be overseeing BMCW, due to all of its problems, takes this position:

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) says she supports that increase - and more in the future. "We are really significantly behind," she said. "We are spending millions and millions of dollars on foster care, and some of that needs to be directed toward foster parent reimbursement."

Darling, who is a member of the advisory group to the state-run Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, added that the state needs to come up with a 10-year plan to "redirect some of the money going to the bureaucracy into direct service on the line to foster parents and kinship parents."

She admits that there are serious flaws that are ongoing in BMCW, which she helped to create, and is supposed to be overseeing. In other words, she admits that even she doesn't like the job she has been doing. It should only be a matter of time before she is wearing a "Sheldon Wasserman for State Senate" button.

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