Arkansas foster care officials say a proposed $26 million budget increase will allow them to hire hundreds of more staffers over the next two years as they try to cut down caseloads and increase the number of homes available for children in the state's custody.
State Human Services officials on Monday detailed steps they're taking to curb growth in the state's foster care system, which currently has about 5,200 children in it and has grown 30 percent over the past year. The details come in the form of a report called Moving Beyond Crisis.
Officials said Gov. Asa Hutchinson's proposal to increase funding by $26.7 million in the coming fiscal year will allow the department to hire 228 additional staff over the next two years and create a new mobile unit that will deploy to areas with high turnover among workers.
"By No Means Go Far Enough..."
At the conclusion of the report, the Arkansas Department of Human Services notes:
"The steps and new initiatives outlined above should help stabilize the foster care system within a year, but they by no means go far enough to address all of the issues plaguing the child welfare system in Arkansas.
As a state, we must also complete transformation efforts in the behavioral health system that will allow for Medicaid-funded substance abuse treatment services for adults eligible for the traditional Medicaid program and would allow for treatment of co-occurring disorders by one provider (i.e. substance abuse and depression).
This is critical to DCFS because 52 percent of children who entered care last state fiscal year entered because of parental substance abuse issues. Today, only eligible pregnant women and adolescents can access that treatment."