What's the Difference Between Federal & State Foster Care in Texas?

Jul 28, 2014
Originally published on July 28, 2014 8:02 am

As scores of unaccompanied minors come across the U.S.-Mexico border, some may look to adopt refugee children through foster care.

But foster care is delineated between two systems: state and federal-sponsored care.  While both require the same qualifications from potential parents, including extensive background checks and training, they differ in the systems of financial support provided to parents.

The foster care system is complicated at every level. Of the two systems, the first is managed by states and the other system is federal. It's called the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). That system handles foster care for children that have crossed the border.

Nancy Langer is with a group called Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. They place foster children for ORR in the federal foster system. Langer says that in case of foster care for children crossing the border, the placements are often short.

"Most of the kids - about 95 percent plus – of these kids that are coming in, have family in the United States," Langer says. "And most of them get re-united with that family."

Many foster parents are licensed to work with both systems and some do.  Foster parents have to go through background checks and training for federal foster care, much like they would if they wanted to foster through the state. But one big difference is the stipend they get. Federal stipends are more generous. Evan Moilan is with Lutheran Social Services of the South – a subcontractor that places children both with state and with federal foster parents.

"The federal reimbursement goes through us directly to the family in full," he says.

That's one reason why federal stipends are beefier. When agencies place children through federal foster care, foster parents get one check and the placing agency gets another. But that's not so in state systems. Agencies get a check and their fee must be deducted.

Some other differences of the federal foster care system beyond the bigger stipends is that placements are often shorter and fewer of the children are victims of abuse or neglect. Moilan says they still need more foster parents.

"Individuals who live in the Corpus area and/or El Paso and are looking to be foster parents," he says. "Those are the 2 areas where we are in need of parents."

Particularly, Moilan adds, to foster refugee children and unaccompanied minors.

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