STANTON — Like all Montcalm County departments, Juvenile Court is struggling to make do with budget cuts.
However, Judge Charles Simon III is worried area children will be affected if Juvenile Court does not receive an increase in funding.
Simon and Juvenile Court Administrator Kristi Romashko appeared before the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Finance & Personnel Committee on Monday to request $65,000 for the Juvenile Court’s child care budget this summer.
The Montcalm County Juvenile Court child care fund is allocated by the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners for the needs of children placed through the court system through neglect and abuse cases or delinquency cases. The fund provides for the payment of foster care placements, residential treatment placements, juvenile detention and in-home care needs. In-home care needs includes counseling, transportation to counseling, drug tests and/or any needs that the youth or family may have in the home.
“I’m loathe to be here today,” Simon said. “I’m aware of how the funding for the child care fund affects other departments and law enforcement. I’m mindful of that every day. We do our level best to stay within the confines of our budget. However, this year we are not going to be able to stay within that budget.”
According to Romashko, Juvenile Court currently has 16 youths in residential treatment and 22 youths in foster care placement. These numbers do not include state ward youths from Montcalm County. Romashko said the average number of children who use Juvenile Court’s child care fund varies each year, depending on how many removal request petitions are received from the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) or how many youths are charged as delinquents by the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office.
On Monday, Simon told commissioners he believes the state is at fault for his court’s budget issues.
“It’s my opinion that the state of Michigan is intentionally not hiring sufficient workers at DHS and passing the services that they provide within private agencies,” the judge said. “Then the services for those private agencies get charged to the county. Frankly, I find it irritating that the state’s not doing this and is passing the cost directly on to the county.”
According to Romashko, when the judge places a youth with DHS for care and supervision, DHS then places the youth in foster care. Sometimes the youth is placed in foster care through a DHS-licensed home and sometimes the youth is placed in a home licensed by a private agency.
The cost for a youth to be placed in foster care is $14.24 per day for children 12 and younger and $17.59 per day for children aged 13 to 18.
If the foster care home is licensed with DHS, then Montcalm County must pay the cost. If youths are placed in a private agency home, Montcalm County must also pay an administrative rate fee of $37 per day on top of regular costs — costing the county $51.24 per day per youth.
If a group of three siblings is placed in a foster home, the county must pay $42.72 per day for placement in a DHS-licensed home or $153.72 per day for private agency placement.
According to Romashko, DHS officials have indicated to county officials that they will be placing 55 percent of their cases into private agency homes.
“The problems some of these children facing, you can’t put them into foster care, they have so many issues,” Simon told commissioners. “They need to be placed in residential treatment.”
Residential treatment programs for youths vary in cost from $150 to $248 per day, according to Romashko.
Commissioner committee members voted to recommend the full Board of Commissioners approve the requested $65,000 amount. The full board will convene on June 25.
Simon warned commissioners he may have to return and ask for another $65,000 later this year.
According to Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer, the requested funding will come from the county’s fund equity, if approved by commissioners. The county uses general fund dollars to pay for the child care fund.
The child care fund was $516,514 in 2009. It decreased to $468,393 in 2010, then increased to $612,016 last year.