Medical Motherhood
Medical Motherhood
Texas parents face pay cuts; foster kids' Social Security scandal; $199M boost for disabled students' career paths

Texas parents face pay cuts; foster kids' Social Security scandal; $199M boost for disabled students' career paths

News roundup for the week of Sept. 17
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Medical Motherhood’s news round up

Snippets of news and opinion from outlets around the world. Click the links for the full story.

• From The Texas Tribune: “Texas parents who care for their disabled children full time will lose money after pay raise

Inside an Austin high-rise north of the Texas Capitol in August, tearful parents lined up for a state health commission meeting to beg agency officials not to increase caretaking wages. It would backfire, they said. They would lose their livelihoods.

In a city where state officials typically hear pleas for more funding, this group of parents — many who serve as primary caretakers for their physically and mentally disabled adult children — pushed for the opposite. Some testified in groups, with their children sitting next to them as they spoke. Raising the wage by a small amount would take away their ability to log overtime hours without making up for the difference, and they knew better than most: caretaking was never a 9-to-5 job.

One parent who attended the meeting virtually broke down while sharing that she had to quit her job to start caring for her daughter, who was in a near-fatal car accident.

“You're only one accident away from my life,” the parent, who introduced herself as Jayne Moorman, told Texas Health and Human Services Commission officials through sobs.

Many of the group’s children depend on round-the-clock care paid for through a Medicaid waiver program known as Community Living Assistance and Support Services. This year’s state budget would slightly increase base caretaking wages, which advocates initially saw as a win after fighting to achieve it amid years of shortages, chaos and crises across the state’s Medicaid programs.

But it carried an unintentional consequence: shuffling funds took money away from the overtime hours that make up a big chunk of caretaker salaries. And in this program, most of the caretakers were family members who made their sole living through it.

[…]State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said that when she pushed for minimum wage increases in the Texas House this year, no one brought forward this potential consequence. She said she originally had pushed for a $15 base wage, but $10.60 was the legislators’ compromise. Howard formerly worked as a critical care nurse.

“You try to take a step forward, and it feels like you take at least another one or two steps backwards,” Howard said. “It was unintentional due to a lack of sufficient knowledge here on the part of legislators about how we need to address this. The service that these parents are providing is not only taking care of their family, but also reducing the overall cost of the state. And for us to not recognize that is dreadful. It's irresponsible.”

Howard added she thought someone, especially the state agencies involved, should have notified legislators that this might happen.[…]

• From NPR: “These kids used to get the bill for their own foster care. Now that's changing

To Teresa Casados, who runs the department in charge of child welfare in New Mexico, it seemed like an odd question. At a legislative hearing in July, a lawmaker asked her if the state was taking the Social Security checks of kids in foster care — the checks intended for orphans and disabled children.

"My reaction really was: That can't be right," said Casados, who in the spring took over as acting secretary of New Mexico's Children, Youth & Families Department. "That can't be a practice that we're doing."

Casados and her chief legal counsel drove back to the office. "When we got back, we looked into it and found out it was a practice that the agency had for using those benefits — and had been going on for quite some time."

A 2021 investigation by NPR and The Marshall Project found this practice was the rule across the country. The investigation led to calls for reform. Now, 15 states and cities have taken steps to preserve the money of foster youth. Several other state legislatures are considering similar laws.

And last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration sent a letter to state and local child welfare agencies to encourage these changes.

The NPR/Marshall Project investigation found that in at least 49 states and the District of Columbia,when young people go into foster care child, welfare agencies routinely look for which ones come with Social Security checks. Or, if the children are eligible, agencies sign them up for benefits. Then state agencies cash those checks — usually without telling the child or their family, the investigation found.

States claim the money as reimbursement for the costs of foster care. But governments already have an obligation to pay the costs of foster care under state and federal laws. The result is that only impoverished kids, who receive Social Security benefits because they're orphans or because they're disabled or their parents are disabled, get a bill for their own foster care.

[…]Some child welfare advocates say the letter from Washington is a good first step, but they're disappointed that it didn't do more.

"The administration missed a leadership opportunity," says Amy Harfeld of the Children's Advocacy Institute, "to clarify once and for all that it is never in a child's best interest for their money and assets to be used by a public agency without their notice for the agency's own gain."

Harfeld says change is coming "from across the political spectrum," most recently in Arizona, Oregon and New Mexico, and in major cities, including New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.[…]

• From the U.S. Department of Education (press release): “U.S. Department of Education Awards Nearly $199 Million to Improve Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Through Partnerships

The U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) announced today it will fund 20 model demonstration projects focused on improving economic self-sufficiency for children and youth with disabilities by creating systemic approaches to enhance post-school outcomes.

The nearly $199 million in funding for the Pathways to Partnerships innovative model demonstration project supports collaborative partnerships between state vocational rehabilitation agencies, state and local educational agencies, and federally funded centers for independent living to help individuals with disabilities seamlessly transition to life after high school, preparing them for independent living, competitive integrated employment and community integration. Pathways to Partnerships is the largest discretionary grant ever administered by RSA.

[The five-year grants will go to 20 different states — ranging from Colorado’s $14 million grant to Maine’s $7 million one. None of the West Coast states were selected.]

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