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Foster children impact Pa. schools

May 25, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - There are nearly 50 foster children in the Tuscarora School District and Schools Superintendent Ted Rabold said he wonders if his district is being targeted by agencies who place them.

This year, 32 foster children enrolled in the district, bringing the total to 48, Rabold said. He said 31 of the 48 are in special education classes because of mental retardation or physical or emotional problems.

"I don't know why they're coming here and not Greencastle or Waynesboro," he said. Rabold said the Chambersburg Area School District also has enrolled a number of foster children.

He said he has no problem with the children who come into his system from foster homes. "It's a wonderful program. It's just such a financial drain. We're getting clobbered. This really impacts on our budget," Rabold said.

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He said the district spends about $312,000 more a year in special education costs for foster children.

This year, the district raised its tax rate by two mills, or $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Rabold said the cost of educating foster children represents about 7.5 mills.

There are 2,665 students in the district.

There are more than 8,000 students in the Chambersburg Area School District, said Lynda Cook, director of pupil services. She said 58 are foster children.

"These children come in with such complex needs. It takes incredible staffing and re-sources. Many are emotionally disturbed. Each child needs something different. We have to be more creative and more flexible," Cook said.

Children end up in foster care for a variety of reasons, including the splitting of their families, discipline problems, and physical, sexual or emotional abuse, Cook said.

While foster children come from all over the state to Franklin County, most are from nearby southcentral Pennsylvania, officials said.

Private, for-profit and nonprofit agencies like Pennsylvania Mentor and Family Care Services, both with offices in Chambersburg, are among agencies that recruit foster families in Franklin County.

Kelli Kindelan, a Mentor recruiter, said it's not that a particular school district is being targeted.

It's easier to find people willing to take a foster child, especially one with problems, into their home in rural areas like the Tuscarora District than it is in urban areas, she said.

"We've been much more successful recruiting families in areas where people are more religious and who have higher moral values," Kindelan said.

She said the Tuscarora District is close enough to the agencies and services in Chambersburg that foster children require.

Pauline Ruthrauff, clinical director for Family Services, a nonprofit agency, said children in foster families must register in the school district where their foster parents live.

She said most foster children placed by her agency come from counties around Franklin. A few come from the Philadelphia area.

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