Foster family values

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In the reddest state in the nation, a place where “family values” abound and the nuclear family is venerated perhaps more than anywhere else, when the legislature recommends a 10 percent cut in funding the foster care program (“Foster parents decry possible cuts” Deseret News, Jan. 21), what can be said but, “Are you kidding.”

No, it isn’t a terrible joke. It’s the legislature’s catch all answer to the state’s current revenue shortfalls – cut, cut, cut – even when it’s at-risk children that are on the edge of the blade.

Putting a child in a foster family is an absolute last resort. When a home environment is unlivable, and a child is in danger, or has nowhere else to go, the state provides them with a home in which they can have some semblance of stability.

In return for the service of bringing a stranger’s child into their home, foster families receive money to help them cover the cost of care. If the proposed cuts are carried out, foster families will receive less than $15 per day for their efforts to keep children safe and well cared for. Parents who take in kids with special needs would receive more.

This is not the first time foster care has been on the cutting board – it has already been reduced some 5 percent, even in the midst of the program trying to attract more minority foster families to sign up to serve. This lack of protection for an essential program is apparently what passes for family values in the Beehive State.

It’s interesting to note too, that even as budgets tighten everywhere in the state (which is unavoidable when revenues fall so much), Utahans are not as averse to the possibility of tax increases as their elected representatives are. A recent poll by Dan Jones & Associates (“Poll: 53 percent of Utahans pick higher taxes instead of budget cuts” Deseret News, Jan. 21) shows that slightly more than half of constituents would be willing to pay higher taxes in order to keep state services available.

The calculus seems to be very simple – children in desperate situations are in need of a state program, budgets are tight, Utahns are willing to pay more for state programs which presumably includes the foster program, ergo a raise in taxes is acceptable in order to keep this and other services operating.

Foster families have received criticism for supposedly “doing it for the money,” that is, attempting to use the program to line their pockets. But $15 a day doesn’t seem like much of an incentive for an unscrupulous family to take on the stresses and hardships involved in caring for these kids. In fact, it seems like a paltry sum.

Taxes aren’t always bad, and this is a perfect example of where they can be put to tremendous use. The lesson should be learned that taxes can promote family values, too.