Foster Care System and Program Eligibility – Virginia

Va. Tech helps with foster care, By Kafia A. Hosh, January 10, 2011, Washington Post: “In the 1990s, Fairfax County experienced a surge in the number of foster care cases, mirroring a national increase. Yet the county’s budget was stretched thin, and busy social workers and other county employees had little time to navigate a maze of external government programs from which certain clients could benefit. Facing an overwhelming case-load, the county teamed up with Virginia Tech to launch a pilot program that checked whether a child was eligible for federal and state funding. ‘It was tough for [social workers] to have these responsibilities and work with the families,’ said Melony A. Price-Rhodes, a principal investigator and the program’s director with Virginia Tech. Since then, the program, which officials say is the first and most extensive of its kind in the United States, has saved Fairfax millions of dollars. It has been a model for similar programs in Hawaii and California. The annual contract, valued at about $500,000, saved Fairfax $4.63 million in fiscal 2010, county officials said – for every $1 the county spent on the program, it got back $8…”

Editorial: Poverty Measurement in the US

Who is poor? Many of America’s neediest may look a lot like you, Editorial, January 7, 2011, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Americans fuss and fight over many aspects of public policy, from climate change to health care reform. But here’s something about which there’s not much argument: If you fall below the federal threshold for ‘poverty,’ you are poor. You aren’t just needy or disadvantaged. At best, you hover somewhere between broke and destitute. It’s easy to prove. All you need is a pencil and the back of an envelope. The federal poverty threshold set by the U.S. Census Bureau for a family of four in 2009 was $21,954 a year. Deduct from that $650 a month for rent and utilities, $20 a day for food and $138 a month for two 30-day bus passes to get to work, and you end up with the princely sum of $14.72 a day to cover everything else – child care, household and personal care products, clothing, haircuts, school supplies, home furnishings and health care…”

Bail System – New York

For poor, bail system can be an obstacle to freedom, By John Eligon, January 9, 2011, New York Times: “Before George Zouvelos agrees to post someone’s bail, a customer must put up cash, sign a 20-page contract and initial 86 separate paragraphs. Those paragraphs are chock-full of fees: $250 if the defendant misses a weekly check-in; as much as $375 an hour for obscure tasks like bail consulting and research; and unspecified amounts if Mr. Zouvelos, a bail bondsman based in Manhattan, farms out tasks like obtaining court documents or delivering release papers to jail. Then there are the thousands of dollars that Mr. Zouvelos can charge if he decides to revoke a bond and return a defendant to jail, as he did 89 times during a four-month period last year. The common perception of how the bail-bond system operates is fairly straightforward: A bondsman bails a defendant out of jail. If that defendant misses a court appearance, the bondsman can ‘surrender’ him – chase him down and haul him back to jail. The reality is more troubling…”