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Jurors generous with donations

November 26, 2000

Jurors generous with donations



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


The first two panels of Washington County jurors who were asked to give up their daily stipend to help foster children were quite generous, according to Todd Hershey, Washington County treasurer.

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The program, called Generous Jurors, was first introduced to the 100 county residents who showed up for their one-month jury duty indoctrination on Sept. 11.

When their stint was up, a dozen people had donated a total of $379.90 to the foster care program in Washington County.

Another $301.80 was donated by members of the October panel, which ended its stint on Nov. 10, Hershey said.

Under the program, jurors can agree to turn over the money they get for jury duty to help foster children.

"We're very pleased with the response," said David Engle, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.

Engle said the number of children in foster homes rose from 200 in fiscal year 1999 to 242 in fiscal year 2000 - a 25 percent increase.

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"When police make a drug raid, there are often children involved who must be cared for," Engle said.

While the amount of money donated may seem small, Engle stressed that many lives can be touched.

"Money for car seats, cribs, eyeglasses, a prom gown, a class ring ... all those things are so important to young people," Engle said.

The state's clothing allowance of $50 per foster child hasn't changed since the 1970s, Engle said. Any parent knows that a pair of jeans or sneakers would eat up that sum, he said.

Some jurors don't have the option to help, since they're required to sign over the $15 daily fee to their employers, Hershey said.

The money can make a real difference in the life of a foster child, according to Ingrid Backman, program manager for foster care and adoptions.

Backman said foster parents aren't actually paid for providing care to foster children in Washington County.

"They receive room and board stipends," Backman said, noting the amount hasn't changed since 1992. If the child needs clothing, school supplies, special tutoring or has other needs, the cost comes out of the foster parents' pockets.

When jurors get their vouchers and take them to the Washington County Treasurer's office to exchange for cash, they can make their wishes known to designate all or a portion of the $15 to foster children.

Each juror who participates gets a receipt to use for a tax deduction.

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