The Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS) and local foster parents have reached an agreement regarding the amount that should be paid to cover the expense of caring for children in foster care. The agreement is intended to bring to a close a federal class action lawsuit that was filed in December 2013, and a related case filed in state court.
When the lawsuits were filed, foster parents were provided with a stipend of $529 per month, which was intended to cover nearly all the costs of rearing a foster child. The rate had remained in place without adjustment for 24 years, during which time,
applying inflation would have increased the stipend to over $950 per month. Under the terms of the settlement, the payments will increase to $649 for ages 0-5; $742 for ages 6 to 11; and $776 for ages 12 and up. Additionally, the annual clothing allowance for each child will increase by between $210 and $426, depending on the age of the child.
The settlement will remain in place for 10 years, during which time DHS has agreed to pursue adjustments to the stipend amount as inflation increases the costs to care for foster children. All told, it is estimated that the increases will provide more than $8.5 million each year in additional support for the care of children in the foster system. Additionally, DHS has agreed to provide a separate payment to foster parents who were caring for children during the time period from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014—$35 per month for each child involved in the foster care system during that period.
The foster parents in the case were represented by the non-profit Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, local law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, and global law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.
The agreement is subject to court approval, and funding for the settlement requires a legislative appropriation. “We are looking forward to working with DHS and the legislature to do everything that is necessary to put into place the support that the agreement provides,” said Hawaii Appleseed Co-Executive Director Gavin Thornton. “It is wonderful to see everyone coming together for the benefit of the children in the foster care system and for our broader community.”