The Rhode Island House Committee on Finance (Subcommittee on Human Services) heard testimony today about the revised FY '15 and recommended FY '16 budget for the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. That's Rhode Island's child welfare agency, responsible for thousands of children who have been abused or neglected. They provide services to families to help stabilize them and work through a crisis so kids can stay in the home, place kids in foster care, group homes, or residential treatment if needed, and supervise the Training School, Rhode Island's juvenile detention facility.
DCYF ran $16 million dollars over budget in FY '15, due largely to the high cost of out-of-state group home placements. Lawmakers heard testimony today that the average cost per day of such treatment is about $530 dollars. That's compared to just $14 dollars a day for foster care per diems (an amount the governor has raised for this coming fiscal year). Some children need higher levels of care than foster homes, it's true. But the main reason agency officials say more than 90 children are currently in group homes across state lines is that the facilities they need just don't exist in Rhode Island.
Did you know it costs about $180,000/year to keep a young person at the Training School? That's for salaries for personnel, plus schooling, medical care, clothing, food, and more. There are more than 100 kids in the Training School now. 555 are currently on probation or parole.
4000 children are currently in foster care. Lots are waiting for adoption.
22 caseworker positions are currently vacant. And while DCYF has just brought on a new class of 36 caseworkers, there's still a big gap. That means each caseworker takes on more cases and works overtime.
And some are using computers that run on a 20 year old system (Windows NT).