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Archive for Thursday, February 18, 1999

ANNUAL TAX BREAK URGED FOR KANSAS FOSTER PARENTS

February 18, 1999

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— Lawmakers ponder a tax credit for foster parents, but the idea isn't universally endorsed.

The Senate tax committee was urged Wednesday to approve an annual $1,000-per-year state income-tax credit for qualifying Kansas foster parents.

Backers of the proposal said the incentive would encourage current foster parents to stay at it longer and also help child welfare officials recruit new foster families.

"The state has a shortage of foster parents," said Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington, a tax committee member. "We need to be more proactive in the recruitment and retention of foster parents."

But the idea, tendered by Lee and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, drew tepid response from Republicans on the committee.

Overland Park Republican Dick Bond, who also is Senate president, wondered aloud if the credit wouldn't discourage adoption of foster children by foster parents or otherwise lengthen the time state wards are in foster care.

"Are we creating a disincentive?" Bond asked. "Maybe we should just pay more to foster parents, period."

"I don't see how the tax credit would be a disincentive to adopt any more than increased (rates) would be," Lee responded.

Child welfare officials told the committee that current compensation rates for foster parents are about $18 per day, with additional payments of $100 to $500 per month to those caring for unusually difficult children.

Social and Rehabilitation Services Commissioner of Children and Family Services Joyce Allegrucci told senators the state welfare agency generally supports the tax-credit idea.

Sen. Don Steffes, R-McPherson, said the state should be careful about enacting the credit or creating too many incentives because it might encourage people who don't really care about children to get into foster care for the money.

"We don't want it to become an industry instead of a labor of love," Steffes said.

Senate Republicans earlier proposed $500,000 be spent on advertising to attract new foster parents.

"Spending money on advertising is like throwing money at the wall to see if it sticks," said Hensley. "We believe this alternative will be more effective in recruiting and retaining foster parents."

Marlene Schmar, director of Another Chance, a Topeka foster-care agency, urged lawmakers to enact the credit.

Her agency has been advertising for new foster parents but hasn't had "a single response."

"Given all the negative influences, I hope you do this $1,000 credit as a reward for doing a good job," Schmar said.

The committee took no action on the measure.

-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is mshields@ljworld.com.

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