Shelley Cadamy is a native Oklahoman. She has worked in economic development in Oklahoma since 1994 and is a foster/adoptive parent.
Nine years ago, I fostered and then then adopted my three kids. They’re biological siblings, now 12, 15, and 18 years old, and they’re fabulous. I can’t imagine my life without them. However, like most kids in the foster care system, my kids have significant mental health needs due to neglect, trauma and abuse. When I adopted them, the State of Oklahoma offered limited resources to help support my kids, including a monthly subsidy and SoonerCare coverage until adulthood. Even with my income, which is above average, that support was what made adopting them possible for me. However, due to years of budget cuts, that support is at risk.
Promises to increase Oklahoma’s adoption subsidies have been broken
Adoption subsidies help adoptive families meet their kids’ basic needs. Oklahoma’s adoptive subsidy is one of the lowest in the country. It’s so low that one of the requirements of the state’s court-ordered child welfare settlement was to incrementally increase it, and for a few years, it did. But in 2016, planned increases were put on hold – and then cancelled altogether. Foster/adoptive parents were assured it was a tough budget year and that the planned increases would resume in 2017.
They didn’t. In fact, in 2017 the subsidies were actually cut by 5 percent. At the same time, DHS cut the Difficulty of Care payments that many families, including mine, receive for kids with significant medical needs. In my home, that worked out to $100 per month we don’t get anymore. And that number doesn’t take into account the loss of the funds we would have received if the promised subsidy increases in 2016 and 2017 had taken place.
The state’s budget problems threaten more cuts to essential mental health care
My kids get their health care through SoonerCare. It has great mental health coverage and has paid for multiple inpatient psychiatric stays and weekly therapy. My kids have made significant progress because of that mental health care, and the state put that care at risk this fall. When the cigarette fee was thrown out this summer, Legislative inaction nearly forced Oklahoma’s primary health care agencies to cut life-saving care and services for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans, including my family.
It looks as if the most damaging cuts are now off the table – for now. If the the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services had gone through with eliminating nearly all outpatient services, my 15 year-old’s very necessary weekly therapy with her trusted, longtime therapist would have no longer been covered. Even if I were able to come up with $400 per month to pay the therapist myself, there’s no guarantee she would have been able to keep her doors open, as not nearly enough parents are able to pay those costs. A few weeks ago, my eldest, who had hit a rough patch a few years ago the way a lot of traumatized people do, said she was ready to begin family therapy again – just in time for that care to fall on the chopping block.
There’s a lot of trauma in my family. Without consistent, quality mental health care, we would have a tough time functioning as anything close to a healthy unit. And many families stood to lose much more than mine.
Does my family count?
Nine years ago, I stepped up and took a large financial burden off the state by adopting three older, traumatized children. In turn, the State agreed to provide certain resources that were minimal to begin with and have eroded over time. More cuts will come down the road if we don’t fix our systemic budget issues very soon. It looks as though lawmakers will probably be able to stave off cataclysmic cuts for now. But short-term measures like raiding the Rainy Day fund instead of making courageous decisions are what got us into this situation in the first place. Unless lawmakers sustainably raise revenues – as voters overwhelmingly want – these near-calamities will continue, and families like mine will bear the cost.
I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and I love my life here. I’ve heard my whole life how family-friendly we are as a state. But judging by how we’ve been treated for years, I guess my family doesn’t count.
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