With more children placed in foster care, licensed homes needed to take them in

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More children are being placed in the foster care system, but there aren’t as many homes being licensed to take them in.

We asked the state about it and learned the number of Hawaii children steadily increased from 2,139 in 2014 to 2,508 in 2016.

The number of licensed foster care providers during that time also went up from 988 to 1,061.

We wanted to find out more about the system after reporting on the death of a Hawaii island toddler while he was under foster care.

Fabian Garett-Garcia died July 25 at a hospital in Waimea. He was three years old. Autopsy results have not been released, so it’s still not known how he died.

The state’s Child Welfare Services Branch isn’t allowed to comment on specific cases, but we wanted to know what the requirements are to become foster parents, also known as resource caregivers.

The first thing is they cannot have criminal records that involve violence or sex crimes.

“Those are criminal convictions for physical like battery, assault, sex crimes, rape, pornography along those lines,” explained Cynthia Goss, assistant administrator of the Child Welfare Services Branch. “No matter how long ago it happened.”

Social workers visit the home to make sure it is suitable for children.

Foster parents are also required to go through six sessions of training for a total of 15 hours as part of the licensing process. Another six hours of training is mandatory every year.

Goss says it can take up to eight months to get applicants to go through the vetting and training process.

Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii island are where the state needs foster parents the most.

“It’s a tough job. We really respect the work that our resource caregivers, we consider them part of our team because they take care of our kids so it is tough,” Goss said.

Licensed caregivers get a stipend from the state of $576 to $676 a month for each child, depending on the child’s age, and a clothing allowance of up to $600 a year.

Foster parents can also be eligible for difficulty of care payments of up to $570 a month if the child needs extra support or care.

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