A tax-credit is a start but not enough to satisfy the needs of all foster parents in Kansas.
The idea of an annual $1,000 tax credit now before a legislative committee gets mixed reaction from area foster parents, one of whom told Journal-World it would be too little, too late for her family, which decided last August it had had enough and quit taking foster children.
"It's hard being a foster parent," said Lisa Unfred of Lawrence. "You almost get the feeling (child welfare officials) are kind of running us off."
Unfred said she and her husband were foster parents from 1992 until August. A state inspector then wrote the family up for having a brush pile in their yard. Unfred said the pile was tree limbs from a recent storm. Already frustrated by problems experienced with Kaw Valley Center, the state's local foster care contractor, the inspector's attitude prompted the family to not renew its license.
"I've once had a brand new truck stolen" by a foster child who later went to jail for the theft, Unfred said she told the state inspector. "There's drywall I've got to fix from kids punching holes in the wall. They've stole all my gold jewelry and slammed my own kids into the wall. Now you're going to write me up for trash in the yard? Have a nice day."
Unfred said the tax credit wouldn't have changed her mind about the decision and won't, if passed, lure her family back to foster care.
There's a special place in heaven for foster parents.
"It's called Crazyland," Unfred said. "I've got four kids of my own. If we're going to have that much hassle, I'll raise my own and have it at that."
The tax credit would be helpful to Rick and Debi Hamm of Perry, who have been foster parent about eight years.
"We've had teen-agers in high school who needed additional money for activities and clubs," Rick Hamm said. "All that falls on the foster parents' shoulders. So any type of tax credit or additional money is always welcome."
But, he said, he'd rather see the state increase the rates paid to foster parents and the amount allowed for the children's expenses. He said the $250 annual allowance for clothing is not enough, especially considering the cost of special footgear or uniforms for sports.
Payment increases would be better "because you can't take that tax credit to the clothing store," Hamm said.
Fewer foster parents would drop out, if there were better provisions for respite care or occasional short relief from the responsibilities, he said.
-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.