- Associated Press - Saturday, July 5, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - State money for Arkansas foster families and adoptive parents will be delayed because of a change in how the Arkansas Department of Human Services makes the payments.

Under the new plan, families will be paid during the second week of the month - rather than at the beginning of the month - a delay of about two weeks.

The change was made to avoid paying a full month’s subsidy to families that provided care for only a partial month. Under the old schedule, if a family stopped providing foster care or an adopted child aged out of the system before the month’s end, the department would have overpaid the family.

DHS spokeswoman Kate Luck told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1j981Q3 ) that the family would then be responsible for paying back the overpaid amount. She said the new schedule, in which families will be paid for the previous month, will be more convenient for everyone.

“Now it works like any other job where you work (a month) and then get your paycheck,” she said. “From this point forward, they’ll get the payment the second week of the month.”

But some who are in the system said the delay is troublesome.

Leten Adams, 47, of Little Rock is a foster parent to five children ages 4 to 9 and she worries that a month of waiting for her payments could overstretch her budget.

She said an unexpected trip to the doctor this month, coupled with the payment delay, threatens to disrupt her budget.

“When I have to take off work and take them to the doctor, it means I’m not getting paid,” she said. “Bills have to be paid, and they still come.”

She said special foods that some of the children must have are also more expensive; it’s something the subsidy helps cover. But she said after this month, she expects her fiscal planning to return to normal.

“Once the process kicks back in, everyone can start budgeting,” she said. “It’s just this break that’s going to affect people.”

The payments are meant to cover basic monthly costs of caring for fostered and adopted children.

Beki Dunagan, assistant director of the department’s Children and Family Services Division, said when the department evaluates foster and adoption candidates, it ensures that the families can provide for children without relying solely on government aid.

“One thing that we need to make clear is this is not an income for families; this is a maintenance payment and it is tax exempt,” she said.

Arkansas foster families and eligible adoptive families currently receive between $410 and $500 per child per month from DHS, depending on the child’s age.

Luck said that, in June, DHS paid nearly $3.7 million to the families of 4,130 fostered children and 4,784 adopted children.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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