HONOLULU — The state Department of Human Services has reached an agreement with Hawaii foster parents to increase the amount it gives to families to cover the costs of rearing a foster child.

The settlement is meant to resolve a federal class-action lawsuit filed in December 2013 and a related state case, KHON-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2bWAvhh).

Foster parents had sued over the $529 monthly stipend they were receiving at the time to care for the children. The rate hadn’t been adjusted for 24 years, and advocates argued it should’ve been raised to about $950 based on inflation.

DHS raised the stipend rates six months after the lawsuit was brought to three different amounts based on the age of the children in care, with the highest being $676 for ages 12 and up.

Under the settlement, DHS will increase the payments to $649 for ages 5 and under; $742 for ages 6 to 11; and $776 for ages 12 and up. An additional clothing allowance for each child will increase by between $210 and $426, depending on the child’s age.

“The rates that we’ve agreed upon under this settlement agreement don’t come nearly to ($950), and we don’t think they will cover all the cost of caring for foster children, but they will definitely ease the burden of foster parents and providing that care, and we know that all parties are really focused on doing what’s right for the foster kids,” said Gavin Thornton, co-executive director of the non-profit Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, who represented the foster parents.

The settlement will remain in place for 10 years, and DHS has agreed to adjust the stipend amounts as inflation increases.

The agreement “demonstrates that parties can work together on investing in the health and well-being of children and families,” said Attorney General Doug Chin.

The increases, which still need court approval, are estimated to provide more than $8.5 million annually in additional support for foster children.

“This settlement is going to help ensure that financial burden is eased, so that they can provide what’s needed for the children in foster care,” Thornton said.


Information from: KHON-TV, http://khon.com