Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina blocked foster care reform to protect profits for religious group homes.
Burr single handedly blocked the Families First Prevention Services Act from becoming law by stripping it from the 21st Century Cures Act, an extensive medical funding bill, that was signed into law earlier this week.
The Families First Prevention Services Act enjoyed wide bipartisan support, and promised sweeping child welfare legislation that would have given states more flexibility to use foster care funding to keep families together.
However, the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina objected to the legislation because they make their money warehousing foster kids in group homes.
As Huffington Post reports, the new legislation would have helped fund services aimed at preventing kids from winding up in foster care in the first place, which would mean fewer kids for group homes run by Baptist Children’s to house.
Huffington Post notes the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina offers its “Christian services” in all 100 counties, and operates at least 20 facilities, many of which are group homes for neglected children. To get a sense of how lucrative the funding stream at risk is, consider a contract it had in one county. BCH is receiving $4,516 per month for each teenager it houses in this county. For ages 6 to 12, the cost to the state is listed as $4,437 per child.
According to its tax filings, the group holds assets of $45 million, and a tax return from 2013 shows Baptist Children’s President Michael Blackwell making roughly $230,000 per year in salary and other compensation.
Because nothing says “Christian love” like gouging the taxpayers while exploiting foster kids for a profit.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a lead sponsor of the Family First legislation, said he was “infuriated and heartbroken” by the move to strip the much needed foster care reform legislation from the 21st Century Cures Act. In a statement Wyden said:
Today the Senate squandered an opportunity to pass legislation that would have offered new hope for hundreds of thousands of America’s most vulnerable children and families.
Bottom line: By blocking foster care reform, Sen. Burr placed the financial interests of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina above the interests of children in crisis. Instead of supporting foster kids, Burr supported a shady religious institution more interested in warehousing kids for profit then keeping families together.