Foster kids see services cut in budget standoff

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Two months without a budget, and now foster children in some parts of the state are struggling because of it. They're the youngest victims of the budget standoff.

Dauphin County foster mother Sherrie Mueller cares for two kids with serious behavioral problems. She pays out of pocket at their therapy appointments twice a week, then is reimbursed.

"When they miss that continuity of care, if the doctor's on vacation, you see it in them in their behavior so they depend on this," she says.

But without a state budget - some counties are unable to pay for foster children's therapy and mental health services. Money for those appointments is not covered by Medicaid. It's paid for through each county, in a formula where most of the money comes from the state.

Since the budget failed to pass on June 30th, some counties are fronting the money from their own accounts, including Dauphin County.

But that's not happening everywhere. Mueller's foster sons were born in outside counties, and the county of origin pays. Her foster agency now says, they can't help.

"Our caseworker has said we have a problem, we're probably not going to be paying our foster parents this month," Mueller says.

The Department of Human Services says it will reimburse county offices for foster services as soon as a budget is passed.

Meanwhile, in Dauphin County, the money for foster services is being supplied from the county, but it's taxing it heavily. County Commissioner George Hartwick III says Dauphin County has already spent $14 million on that since July 1. he estimates that by mid-September, they'll need other financing options, or a budget.

"People are really going to be put at risk when counties can no longer front those dollars," he says.

Mueller says she'll pay for her foster sons' services as long as she can.

"What are we supposed to do, especially in a crisis, because I have boys that have meltdowns, I have boys that commit violence, there's other families who deal with suicides," she says. "What are we supposed to do?"